This term is American, but of unknown origin, referring to a vague system of merit points used to curry favor with some authority. Evidence indicates that it was part of military slang during the WWII-Korean War era,1 but the earliest known use in print is from the Los Angeles Times of 15 March 1951:
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You don’t know about brownie points? All my buddies keep score. In fact every married male should know about ‘em. It’s a way of figuring where you stand with the little woman—favor or disfavor. Started way back in the days of the leprechauns, I suppose, long before there were any doghouses.2
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton