tug

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forelock-tugging

Showing excessive deference toward someone in a superior position. I hate being in meetings with the CEO because then I have to witness all of the managers' forelock-tugging.

tear/tug/pull at/on (one's)/the heartstrings

To elicit strong feelings of sympathy or fondness. I don't know why, but that piece of music always tears at my heartstrings. That documentary really pulls on the heartstrings—you'll want to adopt all of those kids after watching it.
See also: heartstring, on, pull, tear, tug

tug at someone or something

to pull at someone or something. Stop tugging at me! I'll talk to you in a minute. The dog tugged at my pants cuff.
See also: tug

tug away (at something)

to pull hard at something; to haul something. She tugged away at the rope, but the anchor would not budge. No matter how much she tugged away, it didn't move.
See also: away, tug

tug of war

A struggle for supremacy, as in There's a constant political tug of war between those who favor giving more power to the states and those who want a strong federal government . Although there is an athletic contest also so named, in which participants holding either end of a rope try to pull each other across a dividing line, the present usage, first recorded in 1677, predates it by about two centuries. The noun tug itself means "a strenuous contest between two sides," and war refers to fighting, either physical or figurative.
See also: of, tug, war

tug your forelock

BRITISH
If someone tugs their forelock, they show a lot of respect to someone in a high social position. I don't know how you can stand bowing and scraping and tugging your forelock to all those rich old crones. Note: You can also say that someone touches their forelock. A lot of people seem to think we're supposed to go round touching our forelock and scraping our heads against the floor. We're not. Note: You can refer to this kind of behaviour as forelock-tugging or forelock-touching. The idea of forelock-tugging is totally alien to us, as is the idea that some people are born to rule. Note: These expressions are used to show that the speaker thinks that too much respect is being shown. Note: A forelock is a lock of hair that falls over a person's forehead. In the past, it was customary for lower class people to remove their hats in front of upper class people. If they were not wearing a hat, they touched their forelock instead.
See also: forelock, tug

tug at the heartstrings

or

tug at your heartstrings

COMMON If someone or something tugs at the heartstrings or tugs at your heartstrings, they cause you to feel pity or sadness. Miss Cookson knows exactly how to tug at readers' heartstrings. Note: You can use verbs such as pull and pluck instead of tug. Unlike many charity campaigns, it doesn't pull at the heartstrings. Note: You can also omit the word at. McLachlan tugs the heartstrings with a succession of ballads. Note: Heartstrings is used in many other structures and expressions with similar meanings. This is not a movie that aims for the heartstrings. Note: In medieval times, it was believed that `heartstrings' were tendons which supported the heart.
See also: heartstring, tug
References in classic literature ?
In another moment a score of willing hands were tugging it earthward.
Peerybingle come back with her husband, tugging at the clothes-basket, and making the most strenuous exertions to do nothing at all (for he carried it), would have amused you almost as much as it amused him.
Sometimes, too, when he frightens me, it seems that he is a bulldog I have taken for a plaything, like some of the 'frat' girls, and he is tugging hard, and showing his teeth, and threatening to break loose.
With a face hideous with passion, his lower jaw trembling, and his cheeks white, Vronsky kicked her with his heel in the stomach and again fell to tugging at the rein.
Franklin in a chair by the book-case, tugging at his beard, and looking anxiously towards the window.
She was gasping, standing still, then tugging again and almost falling.
It is fitted with a very strong fendering arrangement for all round tugging operations for almost all sizes of ships and crafts.
To provide assistance in ship maneuverability, for tugging, conventional tugs mainly employ the system of short ropes, which needs more space (water area) and in many cases, a longer period of time for changing the moving direction of the ship (Paulauskas 1998).
Whereas this toy is very strong and backed by a 100% guarantee, it was built for tugging, not chewing.
The Tug's shape and flexibility has significantly reduced injuries associated with stick wrestling, towel wrestling, and tire tugging competitions, according to the company.
After tugging on the cells with a magnet, the researchers found increased activity in the set of 52 genes.