A friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook about someone's ego being stroked by the sycophants surrounding them. I'll let you guess who that someone was.
But then her daughter weighed in to say that the correct expression was "stoke someone's ego".
Who was right?
The verb "stroke", which has been with us since Anglo-Saxon times, has been used since the 1500s in a figurative sense to mean "manipulate someone with flattery, persuasion, compliments, etc."
1561 T. Norton tr. J. Calvin Instit. (1562) ii. i. §2. 70 There is nothing that mannes nature more coueteth, than to be stroked with flattery.But "ego" didn't enter the language till the 1800s, and it was only after 1900 that it came to be used to mean "self-esteem or self-importance". The phrase "stroke someone's ego" dates from the 1940s.
In the last ten years, however, we have started to see "stoke someone's ego", much less frequently than the earlier expression, but nonetheless out there. It may have started out as a malapropism for "stroke someone's ego", but the metaphor is different, with the ego seen as something highly combustible which is fanned to higher flames by compliments being shovelled onto it. In contrast, "stroke someone's ego" seems placatory.
Well, I think in our current circumstances we need both expressions!