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Talk:Brownie point


From a system of merits and demerits for railroad employees devised in 1886 by Superintendant George R. Brown of the Fall Brook Railway in New York state which was widely adopted by many American railroads. (see "The Brown and Other Systems of Railway Discipline", by K.J. Norman Browne in the Railway Gazette (London) 1923.)

The etymology entered seems very dubious; does such a publication exist? --Connel MacKenzie 18:28, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

Brownie points is used by the Girl Scout Brownies, but the usage is apparently older than that and the railroad reference. I think the most likely source is the way you earned prizes in Kodak's Brownie Camera Club, starting in 1900; but I can't find any reference that uses the word "point"; I earned points circa 1972, but that could have been derived from some other source. And I never did get enough for a new film roll. Robert Ullmann 21:49, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

The work cited (The Browne and Other Systems of Railway Discipline) is used as a reference in an article in BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC HISTORY, Volume Twenty-eight, no. 2, Fall 1999 [1] (see page 11 of the PDF). However, the article doesn't mention anything about Brownie points, and I so far haven't been able to find any transcript of the original work. A search on "Brownie point" + "Railway Gazette" turns up 0 hits; a search on "Brownie Point" + "London" + "browne" + "railway" turns up less than 10. One of the links in the latter search points to a site at, which, after a couple of clicks, manages to run to the American Heritage dictionary at, which provides the etymology that the "railway discipline" one replaced. On a hunch, I did a search on "Browne point" to see if the term had mutated from that (with people purposely pronouncing the final "e" in a sort of mocking tone). I ended up filting out "Browne's" (there are a few "Browne's Points" out there, apparently) and "point out" (people named Browne apparently point things out occasionally) and got 85 results. Although there apparently is a "Browne point" in Gaelic football, or, at least, some sport that the GAA is associated with, the only instance of a "Browne point" being used in the sense of "Brownie point" is here in 2004, which would look more like a typo than a linguistic precursor. So, um, no support for this that I've found so far... --Dajagr 23:41, 3 August 2006 (UTC)
Found a reference to the cited etymology, although I'm not entirely sure how reliable the source in question is. --Dajagr 00:15, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Taken from Wikipedia:Andrew massyn 20:04, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

  1. "The Oxford English Dictionary conjectures that this expression could also have derived from U.S. military slang for sycophants, "brownnosers", while mentioning the less-likely but popular etymology that derives it from the awards system of the Brownies Girl Guides/Girl Scouts. "Brownie" itself in the sense of "brown-noser" was in use in the 1940s.

The OED reports its first appearance in print as 1963, though the origins of the phrase predate this. Its frequent appearance in newspapers in the 1950s date back to the earliest known usage in 1951, where a man in the Los Angeles Times speaks of earning favor with his wife in terms of brownie points."

The best book on Brown is by a Browne (KJ Norman). Browne's The Brown and Other Systems of Railway Discipline, London, Railway Gazette, 1923, is a classic. ... [2]

I have moved the definition to the talk page along with this discussion. Andrew massyn 05:42, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

Brownie Point = Brown Noser?Edit

I always thought it was sort of a play on a brown-noser, or arse-kisser, earning their "brownie points"

Why are we back to the Girl Scout etymology?Edit

Seems pretty clear that the term far antedates the Girl Scout Brownies, and that this is the consensus here. Should the entry be reverted? Or did I miss some further discussion/decision? Tmangray 22:03, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

I've put the most likely brownnose origin back, leaving the junior Girl Guide details as a likely influence. I don't think we need include all the other guesses. Dbfirs 21:45, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
Return to "Brownie point" page.