tug (one's) forelock

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tug (one's) forelock

To show excessive deference toward someone in a superior position. An allusion to the former act of pulling one's frontmost hair in lieu of having a hat to tip. I hate being in meetings with the CEO because then I have to witness all of the regional managers tugging their forelocks like fawning sycophants.
See also: forelock, tug
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

tug your forelock

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
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

touch/tug your ˈforelock

(disapproving) show too much respect for a person of a higher rank or status: This is a democratic country and we don’t want people tugging their forelocks.In the past, people either took off their hats or pulled on their forelocks (= the hair above the forehead) to show respect.
See also: forelock, touch, tug
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in periodicals archive ?
Hopefully, Terry will have reminded the full-back that grovelling up to an opponent for his shirt at half time may be acceptable in Portugal, but here players ought to have a damn more self-respect and not go tugging their forelock to the man who's just put your Champions League place in jeopardy.
I've been to countless Press calls when Prince Charles turns up to greet the flag-waving flock of sycophants tugging their forelock in his presence.
Involuntarily vomiting at the wallto-wall coverage of professional royalists tugging their forelocks so hard they almost go blind.
The answer is a simple one, the Tories own the media, and the editors are tugging their forelocks like good little sycophants.
On the contrary, I would argue that it's actually people in the rest of the country that make the wealth for the City of Londonto process-they should be thanking us and tugging their forelocks when in our presence.
Stately homes across England passed their prime, the lower orders stopped tugging their forelocks and the aspirant middle classes claimed a new place in the pecking order.
Sparrow decorated his testimonial season with two goals to sink Millwall at Wembley in the League One play-off final - and insisted the Glanford Park minnows will not be tugging their forelocks for Alan Shearer.
It needs men of intelligence, players who can articulate their thoughts and aren't merely led by the nose or herded meekly into line, doffing their caps and tugging their forelocks on the way.
One only has to look at the self-serving, pompous letter he sent to his mother from prison, filled with patronising references to the other prisoners calling him "Mr MP Sir" (tugging their forelocks simultaneously, I'll wager) and the merry laughter he provokes with his self-effacing witticisms, to see that Aitken's vanity is well intact.