How Much Is Lip Service Worth?

I just heard Elton John being interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition, talking about the deleterious effects of drug use on his earlier singing. Of his present performances he says “I think now I'm a much better singer, and I pay much more lip service to the lyrics. . .”

John obviously means to say that he gives a more whole-hearted performance, but “lip service” means just the opposite. When you pay only lip service to an idea you say that you endorse it but you don’t follow through with action in a meaningful way. You are committing only your lips, not your heart.

 A 2009 draft addition to the entry on “lip-service” in the online Oxford English Dictionary says “to make an empty or insincere expression of loyalty, approval, or support.”

I suppose he could have meant to say “I pay much more than lip service,” but his tone of voice didn’t suggest that.

You can read the text of his interview and hear it on NPR’s Web site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I expect he knew he was re-purposing the phrase, to mean that now he enunciates (uses his lips) more.