Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for December 21, 2019 is:

kowtow • KOW-tow  • 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


“[Cyndi] Lauper wanted a hit record. She wanted one badly after PolyGram dropped her first band Blue Angel following a failed debut in 1980. But she wouldn’t kowtow to music execs in pursuit of that hit.” — Jed Gottlieb, The Boston Herald, 17 Nov. 2018

“I sense people are hungry for something new, and sick of fiction that lazily kowtows to the reader or, God help us, the ‘market.'” — Lucy Ellmann, quoted in The New Statesman, 11 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Kowtow originated as a noun referring to the act of kneeling and touching one’s head to the ground as a salute or act of worship to a revered authority. In traditional China this ritual was performed by commoners making requests to the local magistrate, by the emperor to the shrine of Confucius, or by foreign representatives appearing before the emperor to establish trade relations. (In the late 18th century, some Western nations resisted performing the ritual, which acknowledged the Chinese emperor as the “son of heaven.”) The word kowtow derives from Chinese koutou, formed by combining the verb kou (“to knock”) with the noun tou (“head”).

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