Month: April 2016

play it by ear

This idiom is used when someone doesn’t want to make any concrete plans, but to wait and see how things turn out before deciding what to do. It means to act spontaneously and according to the situation, because you have no game plan. The original meaning of this term was to play music without sheet music, meaning you either remembered…

do your ears hang low?

“Do Your Ears Hang Low?” is a children’s song often sung in school and at camp. There’s no conclusive evidence concerning the origin of the lyrics. A common belief is that the lyrics refer to the ears of a hound dog.  It is most likely that this was a crude wartime soldiers’ song that, in sanitized form, has made its…

walls have ears

This phrase is used to warn people to be careful what they say because other people may be listening. It often refers to something said or done behind closed doors, usually something unsavory or something that one would like to keep hidden. So it can also be a caution against talking in case you are overheard. It’s been around for…

bubble and squeak

I’m taking a break from talking about ears, though there will be at least two more articles on that subject. Today it’s about food, probably because I haven’t had breakfast yet and my stomach is worried that my throat may have been cut. Back in the 18th century, bubble and squeak was a dish of fried meat and cabbage. These…

ear! ear!

cauliflower ear — an ear thickened or deformed as a result of repeated blows, typically in boxing tin ear —  inability to hear differences in musical sounds and subtlety in verbal expression shut your ears — to refuse to listen to something turn a deaf ear — to ignore or refuse to listen to someone or something not believe your…

wet behind the ears

The phrase means ‘young and without much experience, naive.’ The allusion is to the inexperience of a baby, so recently born as to still be wet. Another interpretation is that it derives from a mild mockery of children who forget to dry the area behind the ears after a bath. The assumption is that adults, being more experienced, would know…

my ears are burning

A tingling or burning sensation in the ears supposedly means that a person is being discussed by others. The origin of this belief goes back to Roman times when augurs paid particular attention to such signs. Pliny wrote: ‘It is acknowledged that the absent feel a presentiment of remarks about themselves by the ringing of their ears’ (Naturalis Historia, AD…