Green’s Dictionary of Slang

polish v.

1. to hoodwink, to exploit.

[UK] ‘Beautiful for Ever’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 142: And of the old woman I made a fool, / To polish old ladies shall be my rule.

2. to beat, to thrash.

[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 29 May 141/1: Peter [...] also wanted shewy advantages of haying been taught to walk [...] giving his frame a graceful polish; but Peter’s forte lies, in polishing another way.
[UK]Egan Bk of Sports 191: When he had got Dobell, as the pugilistic phrase goes, he polished him off hand.
[US]C.W. Willemse Cop Remembers 310: Thus [...] a great many criminals are driven out of town, for they can’t stand the continuous frisking and polishing.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

polishing powder (n.)

(Aus.) in prize-fighting, physical strength.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Victoria (Melbourne) 7 Feb. 4/1: For the first five rounds Fergy was best man, giving the black a good taste of his polishing powder.
polish it up (v.) [‘it’ is the proverbial ‘apple for teacher’]

(US campus) to toady, to act sycophantically.

[US]Baker et al. CUSS.
polish off (v.)

see separate entry.

polish one’s arse on the top sheet (v.)

see under arse n.

polish the apple (v.) (also polish apples) [apple-polisher n.]

to curry favour, to act the sycophant.

[US]W.R. Morse ‘Stanford Expressions’ in AS II:6 277: polish apples—curry favor in conversation.
[US]‘Bill O. Lading’ You Chirped a Chinful!! n.p.: Polishing Up the Apple: Currying for favor with one’s superiors.
[UK]P. Tempest Lag’s Lex. 161: polish, to. ‘To polish the apple’ = to curry favour with the authorities by sycophancy. To put on a show of being busy. (From the costermonger’s habit of rubbing the best apple on his sleeve but selling inferior ones.).
[US]Mad mag. Apr. 16: I polished up the apple at such a clip / That now I am a flatfoot in a comic strip.
[US]S. Longstreet Flesh Peddlers (1964) 339: Tell him he doesn’t have to polish the apple with me.
polish the king’s/queen’s iron with one’s eybrows (v.)

to look through one’s prison bars; thus (Aus.) polisher n., a gaolbird.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: To polish the king’s iron with one’s eyebrows; to look out of grated or prison windows, or, as the Irishman expresses them, the iron glass windows.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]E. de la Bédollière Londres et les Anglais 315/2: iron [...] To polish the Queen’s iron with one’s eyebrows, [...] regarder à travers les barreaux d’une fenêtre de prison.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 59: Polisher, one who is in prison.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. 56: polisher A gaolbird.