Brownie points

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'Brownies' is the name given to younger female members of the youth education and social movement known as Girl Guides (and Boy Scouts) in the UK, and as Scouts in the USA. Such young girls were often rewarded by scoring points on various charts. People outside the movement often feel such rewards are very trivial.

Now the term Brownie points has come to mean any form of trivial credit, or general approval, given by one's superiors.

There is another explanation. OED gives 'brown-nosing' as the phrase's probable origin: that is, rewards given for repulsively obsequious behaviour, for 'greasing on' a superior. (OED also gives the other explanation above, the one involving young female Scouts: it seems possible that both explanations exist in people's minds.)