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"bow and scrape"

Posted by ESC on August 12, 2005

In Reply to: "Bow and scrape" posted by Victoria S Dennis on August 12, 2005

: : Can anyone tell me the origin of "bow and scrape." Google came up with a reference in Shakespeare's Henry V. Could the phrase have marine or musical origins?

: Neither nor. "Bow" here rhymes with "cow" and means "to bend at the waist" (not "something to play the violin with" or "front end of a boat"). "Scrape" here means to drag the foot along the ground when making the elaborate sort of old-fashioned bow that involves pointing one foot backwards. Thus "to bow and scrape" means "to be elaborately deferential".

In a previous discussion, "bow and scrape" was equated with kowtowing:

Main Entry: 2 kowtow
Function: intransitive verb
1 : to show obsequious deference : FAWN
2 : to kneel and touch the forehead to the ground in token of homage, worship, or deep respect

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