‘Beck and call’

When you are at someone’s `beck and call’, you do whatever he wants you to. In order to please the individual, you remain slavishly attentive to all his needs; the person’s wish is your command.

Examples: The young prince was at his wife’s beck and call. * There are a few reporters we know who are at the minister’s beck and call.

The word `beck’ is actually the shortened form of `beckon’. A `beck’ is usually a silent signal that you give someone in order to draw his attention. The signal could be a simple nod of the head or the motioning of one’s finger. Who are the people who pay a great deal of attention to an individual’s head and hand movement? Servants, of course! In the old days, servants were at their master’s beck and call. A master could get a servant to do his bidding in two different ways — he could either `call’ the servant or `beckon’ him.

 Source: ‘Know Your English’ (The Hindu) – December 25, 2006.

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