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Play it By Ear or Year?

Jack in Spokane, Washington, wonders which phrase is correct when talking about improvising: play it by ear or play it by year? Although play it by ear is the original version and by far the most common one, play it by year sounds plausible enough...

The Best Pronunciation of “Tinnitus”

Kay in Sparks, Nevada, wonders how to pronounce the term for the ringing in one’s ears known as tinnitus. Some people rhyme it with arthritis, while others stress the first syllable instead. Either is acceptable. Tinnitus derives from Latin...

Put a Bug in One’s Ear

Jamie from Calais, Vermont, says an unfortunate experience with an insect made her wonder about the expression to put a bug in your ear or put a bug in one’s ear, meaning “to make a strong, insistent suggestion to someone.” An...

Latvian Expressions

A Latvian expression that translates as “Did a bear stomp on your ear?” is a more colorful, though no more kind, way to tell someone they have no ear for music. Also heard in Latvia is an idiom that translates as “You’re...

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

When adults are talking sex, money, or other adult topics in the presence of children, one might say little pitchers have big ears, meaning that they don’t want the little ones to hear. The expression has to do with beverage pitchers with...