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    #1

    prick up one’s ears

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to give me your considered opinion concerning the interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentence?

    The coachman looked back and the guard looked back, and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, without contradicting.

    prick up one’s ears = be all ears

    V.

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    #2

    Re: prick up one’s ears

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to give me your considered opinion concerning the interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentence?

    The coachman looked back and the guard looked back, and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, without contradicting.

    prick up one’s ears = be all ears

    V.

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) I may be wrong, but I think that there may be a (little?) difference between

    "prick up one's ears" and "I'm all ears."

    (a) Tom: Can I tell you about my trip to Moscow?

    Sue (who puts down the newspaper that she was reading): Go ahead. I'm all ears.

    (= I shall give you 100% attention)

    (2) According to my (good) dictionary, "prick up one's ears" = to suddenly

    become attentive. Let's say that Tony was not paying attention to the

    professor's usual boring lecture. But Tony pricked up his ears when he heard the

    professor say the words "pretty girls."

    (3) Another minor point that you may already know about. If you do not, I think that

    it may interest you, for you are certainly a conscientious student of English

    vocabulary:

    The noun "p - - - - " is a vulgar word for a certain part of the male anatomy. Thus, if

    you innocently say "prick up your ears," some Americans may start to giggle. There

    are other perfectly good words that we are afraid to use today because of changing

    social conditions.

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    #3

    Re: prick up one’s ears

    Hi TheParser,

    Thank you for your kindness.

    You may rely upon it that the reading your posts is one of the scanty pleasures I found at the present forum.

    For all that I could not help expressing my little dissent from some your statements above.

    I may be wrong, but I think that there may be a (little?) difference between
    "prick up one's ears" and "I'm all ears."
    According to my (good) dictionary, "prick up one's ears" = to suddenly become attentive.

    That’s right enough.

    but

    Please see my wording in my original post above!

    prick up one’s ears = be all ears

    Here is a brief excerpt from the popular book “A Tale of Two Cities” by Ch. Dickens:

    The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step, getting in; the two other passengers were close behind him, and about to follow. He remained on the step, half in the coach and half out of; they remained in the road below him. They all looked from the coachman to the guard, and from the guard to the coachman, and listened. The coachman looked back and the guard looked back, and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, without contradicting.

    In my humble opinion, the expression in question is a coinage of the world famous Ch= Dickens. To the best of my knowledge it gives us a broad hint that the emphatic leader “sharpened his hearing suddenly”. There is only one likely interpretation of suchlike action in my native thousand years old language, namely “be all ears” (transform, turn into hearing). It is yours “become attentive suddenly”. Similar figurative interpretation of “sharpen something” you may see below:

    get one’s teeth ready, whet one’s appetite for a good meal

    Another minor point that you may already know about. If you do not, I think that

    it may interest you, for you are certainly a conscientious student of English

    vocabulary:

    The noun "p - - - - " is a vulgar word…


    I know, we have to speak (write) with deliberation… but

    Would you try to put yourself in the poor person’s shoes who has read the following two excerpts of famous English texts?

    "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord I am Jesus whom thou persecute: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."

    Robert: Well, look here, Caroline, it’s not good kicking against the pricks. We’ve got to marry.
    Caroline (energetically): I’m handed if we do. (W. S. Maugham, “The Unattained”)

    Probably, if I really were a well-bred American I could hardly restrain my laughter reading mentioned above texts?

    I apologize to you for my broken and obscure English.

    V.
    Last edited by vil; 06-Sep-2011 at 10:34.

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    #4

    Re: prick up one’s ears

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Hi TheParser,

    Thank you for your kindness.

    You may rely upon it that the reading your posts is one of the scanty pleasures I found at the present forum.

    For all that I could not help expressing my little dissent from some your statements above.

    I may be wrong, but I think that there may be a (little?) difference between
    "prick up one's ears" and "I'm all ears."
    According to my (good) dictionary, "prick up one's ears" = to suddenly become attentive.

    That’s right enough.

    but

    Please see my wording in my original post above!

    prick up one’s ears = be all ears

    Here is a brief excerpt from the popular book “A Tale of Two Cities” by Ch. Dickens:

    The passenger booked by this history, was on the coach-step, getting in; the two other passengers were close behind him, and about to follow. He remained on the step, half in the coach and half out of; they remained in the road below him. They all looked from the coachman to the guard, and from the guard to the coachman, and listened. The coachman looked back and the guard looked back, and even the emphatic leader pricked up his ears and looked back, without contradicting.

    In my humble opinion, the expression in question is a coinage of the world famous Ch= Dickens. To the best of my knowledge it gives us a broad hint that the emphatic leader “sharpened his hearing suddenly”. There is only one likely interpretation of suchlike action in my native thousand years old language, namely “be all ears” (transform, turn into hearing). It is yours “become attentive suddenly”. Similar figurative interpretation of “sharpen something” you may see below:

    get one’s teeth ready, whet one’s appetite for a good meal

    Another minor point that you may already know about. If you do not, I think that

    it may interest you, for you are certainly a conscientious student of English

    vocabulary:

    The noun "p - - - - " is a vulgar word…

    I know, we have to speak (write) with deliberation… but

    Would you try to put yourself in the poor readers’ shoes of the following two excerpts of famous English texts?

    "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord I am Jesus whom thou persecute: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."

    Robert: Well, look here, Caroline, it’s not good kicking against the pricks. We’ve got to marry.
    Caroline (energetically): I’m handed if we do. (W. S. Maugham, “The Unattained”)

    Probably, if I really were a well-bred American I could hardly restrain my laughter reading mentioned above texts?

    V.

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer.

    (2) As the saying goes, one does not have to be an Einstein to know that you

    have a deep interest in vocabulary. I am NOT flattering you when I say that you

    obviously know more words than do many native speakers, including me.

    (3) Thank you for the passage from Dickens. I admit that I have never read

    Dickens. (I do not like fiction.)

    (4) Thanks, too, for the quotations with "that" word. I am sure that there are

    certain words in every language that have connotations that are not known to

    learners.

    (5) I always read your posts, for I always learn so much from your questions and the

    answers.

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    #5

    Re: prick up one’s ears

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) I may be wrong, but I think that there may be a (little?) difference between

    "prick up one's ears" and "I'm all ears."

    (a) Tom: Can I tell you about my trip to Moscow?

    Sue (who puts down the newspaper that she was reading): Go ahead. I'm all ears.

    (= I shall give you 100% attention)

    (2) According to my (good) dictionary, "prick up one's ears" = to suddenly

    become attentive. Let's say that Tony was not paying attention to the

    professor's usual boring lecture. But Tony pricked up his ears when he heard the

    professor say the words "pretty girls."

    (3) Another minor point that you may already know about. If you do not, I think that

    it may interest you, for you are certainly a conscientious student of English

    vocabulary:

    The noun "p - - - - " is a vulgar word for a certain part of the male anatomy. Thus, if

    you innocently say "prick up your ears," some Americans may start to giggle. There

    are other perfectly good words that we are afraid to use today because of changing

    social conditions.
    Would there be an alternative to "prick one's ear" just not to make Americans laugh?

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    #6

    Re: prick up one’s ears

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    Would there be an alternative to "prick one's ear" just not to make Americans laugh?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    (1) Great question -- as usual.

    (2) My dictionaries tell me that one would have to say "suddenly listen

    attentively" or "listen with sudden alertness."

    (3) Of course, when we are talking about humans, "p _ _ _ _ up one's

    ears" is figurative.

    (4) But my dictionary reminds me that it is literal when discussing horses.

    Their ears actually move when excited or scared. (To be honest, my dictionary

    does not use the verb "move." It uses another verb that is also liable to bring

    giggles, so I dare not use it.)

    (5) By the way, I'm sure that using "p _ _ _ _ up one's ears" is NOT going to

    upset many people. I just thought, however, that learners should be aware of the

    possibility. Americans are sensitive about words that are allowed on the radio and

    on commerical TV. (British TV, for example, allows words that would never make it on

    American commercial TV. Cable TV is another matter, though.)

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