IDIOMS: TO PAY LIP SERVICE

Close up on gorgeous model biting her red lips

To pay lip service to someone or something  is to express something in words, but not back that up with actions. The use of the verb ‘to pay’ suggests obligation or debt, and ‘to pay a service’ suggests a formal rather than a heartfelt exchange. The term first appeared in 1590 in the book A Treatise Against Witchcraft by Henry Holland, an English priest and a writer on witchcraft. Holland warned of “wicked exorcists and conjurers” who keep men in “external lip service”, that is, bewitch them into being inauthentic or mechanical in their prayers to God. The phrase is still much used and might refer to anyone who claims some moral standing or expresses loyalty to someone or something verbally, but is insincere and unsupportive in reality. Politicians often pay lip service to various issues, from creating jobs, to protecting health, to action on the environment.

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