sieve

perpend

Banned
American English
He's got ears like a sieve.

Context: Someone hears everything really well.

I know I can say "ears like a hawk", for example, but how does "sieve" sound to Wordreference members?
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I associate sieves things that loose everything in them.
    He has a mind like a sieve = he forgets everything instantly.

    I can't think what it would mean in relation to ears, except, maybe, that he doesn't retain what he hears; everything goes by him.
     

    dadane

    Senior Member
    English (London/Essex)
    I have never heard this one before. It could make sense in that a sieve filters, so he can perceive small details in a cacophony that others can't. This explanation, however, is a wild stab in the dark.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I usually hear 'I've got a head like a sieve'. I wouldn't understand 'ears like a sieve', and would guess that it meant what Cagey said.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    According to Google's ngrams, at around year 2000, memory like a sieve was most popular expression, followed closely by mind like a sieve and trailing behind is head like a sieve. The rankings have changed through the years. No instances of ears like a sieve​ though.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Okay, I'm way off---thanks everyone. I was thinking that a sieve would catch certain things, like when you are making pasta, so I mistakenly made the association:

    ears like a sieve
    his ears hear everything

    It's pretty apparent it means the opposite: He can't hear anything.
     

    dadane

    Senior Member
    English (London/Essex)
    Clearly it failed the test, but the analogy works for me. :) In fact, the only reason it failed is because the phrase 'head like a sieve' is so similar and has an almost opposite, and well established, meaning, so there is an immediate negative association when 'sieve' is used in this context.
     
    Last edited:

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Thanks, dadane, It is meant like your #3 entry, but the more I ponder, the more I perpend. :)

    But again, dadane, thanks for opening up the way of looking at this. Kudos.
     
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