totem

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low man on the totem pole

The person (not necessarily a man) with the least amount of experience, authority, and/or influence in a social or corporate hierarchy. It can be a little daunting going from being a senior in high school to low man on the totem pole again as a college freshman. I know I'll be low man on the totem pole with this internship, but it will at least give me a place to start in my career!
See also: low, man, on, pole, totem

low on the totem pole

Having the least amount of experience, authority, and/or influence in a social or corporate hierarchy. The president has made it clear that the environment is low on the totem pole for his administration. I know I'll be low man on the totem pole with this internship, but it will at least give me a place to start in my career!
See also: low, on, pole, totem

high man on the totem pole

The person (not necessarily a man) with the most experience, authority, and/or influence in a social or corporate hierarchy. Oh, just boss those freshmen around—now that we're seniors, we're the high men on the totem pole! As much as I'd like to change fields, how can I go back to an entry-level job after having been the high man on the totem pole?
See also: high, man, on, pole, totem

high man on the totem pole

Fig. the person at the top of the hierarchy; the person in charge of an organization. I don't want to talk to a vice president. I demand to talk to the high man on the totem pole. Who's in charge around here? Who's high man on the totem pole?
See also: high, man, on, pole, totem

low man on the totem pole

Fig. the least important or lowest-ranking person of a group. I was the last to find out because I'm low man on the totem pole. I can't be of any help. I'm low man on the totem pole.
See also: low, man, on, pole, totem

low man on the totem pole

Low in rank, least important person, as in I just joined the board so I'm low man on the totem pole. This slangy expression is thought to have been invented by the American comedian Fred Allen about 1940 and caught on despite its lack of application to a genuine totem pole.
See also: low, man, on, pole, totem

the low man on the totem pole

AMERICAN, INFORMAL
If you describe someone as the low man on the totem pole, you mean that they are the least important person in an organization or a group. He is a quality-control coach, the low man on the totem pole of the staff. Note: You can also just say that a person or their position is low on the totem pole. At other studios, those writers who were low on the totem pole were treated rudely. Note: If someone is important in a group or organization, you can say that they or their position is high on the totem pole. Kassam would only say that his job was `high on the totem pole' at the hospital where the disease was found. Note: A `totem pole' is a tall wooden pole with symbols on it, that is a traditional object for Native Americans.
See also: low, man, on, pole, totem

low man on the totem pole

Last in line, lowest-ranking, least important. The humorist H. Allen Smith used this phrase as the title of a book (1941) after the radio comedian Fred Allen had used the term to describe him in an introduction to an earlier book. The position on an actual totem pole, by the way, has no such significance. Nevertheless the term caught on quickly enough to become a cliché.
See also: low, man, on, pole, totem
References in periodicals archive ?
Patrilineal descent is thus descent from a man in his totemic aspect, and from the country itself, which is an infinite source of ancestral 'stuff'.
However, despite his moral criticisms of the modern economic order, Durkheim's EFRL provides a framework for analyzing emerging sacred and totemic phenomena of modern life, like stock and financial markets.
In fact, the brutality visited upon the Russians by the Tlingits was the direct result of breaking totemic law.
2007's Grammy-Award winner for Best Native American Album, Johnny Whitehorse's (AKA Robert Mirabal) Totemic Flute Chants is a 'stunner'.
The imprint on the woman's imagination is made then not by a work of art, but by a totemic spirit:
His proposals and studies for Olympia reveal a tendency toward the totemic rather than the organic.
His most steadfast love, however, is reserved for a gasoline pump called "Sarah," a totemic object that he sketches again and again, until the day it is dismantled and hauled away.
Elders who have memorized the numerous totemic emblems hold great prestige and power within the village.
It explores and shapes the cultural boundaries of the land, water, fauna and flora and examines the totemic moiety, differentiating clan-to-clan, country-to-country.
Inaugurated in April after a lengthy facilitation and construction process, the Austrian Cultural Forum nevertheless achieves an extraordinary totemic presence on East 52nd Street close to the Olympic and Trump Towers, the Seagram and Lever Buildings and the Museum of Modern Art.
I would like to point out a big mistake in the caption below the picture of the totemic poles on page 7 of your August issue.
On the September night that Denmark shocked the European Union establishment to the core by voting against membership in the euro-zone--but far more pertinently against the entire process of European political integration--a commentator from German radio was interviewed, a grainy photograph of Berlin's totemic Brandenburg Gate behind him.
Albino elephants are revered in certain parts of Asia, and Gallardo has similar hopes for her totemic rendition in Argentina.
And it is only getting harder as the term "special interest" gathers the kind of totemic, repulsive force that "Mason" once held in American politics.
The apposite totemic animal here is neither the hare nor the tortoise, but rather the fox.