Cowing to Special Interests

In the April 18, 2011 Newsweek Philip K. Howard writes that legislators "now send $14 billion in taxpayer dollars each year mostly to corporations because lawmakers cow to special interests" (p. 32).

I don't think he means that the legislators are cowed by these corporate farmers, even though some of them are well equipped with cows to do the job. (The verb "to cow" is derived from an old Scandinavian word for "intimidate" and actually has nothing to do with cattle.)

I think he means kowtow. Here's my entry on that word, often misspelled cowtow:


You can tow a cow to water, but you can't make it drink. But the word that means bowing worshipfully before someone comes from the Chinese words for knocking one's head on the ground, and is spelled kowtow.

Or maybe he was influenced by this half-formed thought: "lawmakers bow to special interests." Or "cave to special interests."

Other than that it's great article full of helpful ideas on improving the US.

Paul Brians

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