tug one's forelock

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From a traditional gesture of respect to the higher classes, pulling down one's front piece of hair or cap in a mock bow.


tug one's forelock (third-person singular simple present tugs one's forelock, present participle tugging one's forelock, simple past and past participle tugged one's forelock)

  1. (intransitive, often satirical or contemptuous) To show deference or obsequious respect.
    • 1988, David Corson, Education for Work: Background to Policy and Curriculum, page 228:
      These students were quite capable of tugging their forelocks while raising two fingers behind their backs (Newby, 1977), i.e. producing deferential behaviour as part of a more complicated game of manipulation.
    • 2013, William G. Tapply, The Dutch Blue Error
      "Aw, lay off, will you? It's part of my job, you know that." "Yeah, bowing and scraping and tugging your forelock to all those rich old crones. Somebody's chauffeur probably got a scratch on the El Dorado, huh?"

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