Talk someone’s ear off

If you talk a lot to one person, and if that person is tired of listening, you're talking his or her ear off

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Talk someone’s ear off

Well I was going to do “hitch a ride” and about two paragraphs into the write-up, I realized that I had done it already. That was way back in Episode 4. So I had to pick another one, and I chose—or, I should say, JR chose—the phrase “talk someone’s ear off.” Now, I’m going to warn you—this is an idiom. And like most idioms, you really only want to use it once in a while. In my personal, humble opinion, most English classes spend too much time on idioms, and the result is that English learners overuse idioms and by doing so, they sound unnatural. You really want to use idioms like this rarely. But there are those occasional times where an idiom like this is exactly what’s called for.

To talk someone’s ear off is to talk so much that the other person is exhausted from listening to you. If you rate yourself just “Bla” in the long-distance rideshare app BlaBlaCar, then you don’t really want to talk too much in the car. You probably don’t want to be matched up with someone who rates himself “BlaBlaBla” because that person would probably talk your ear off. That person would talk the whole time, and you would have no choice but to sit there and listen to it. I’ve had a few Uber drivers talk my ear off. I don’t mind chatting for a little bit, but I usually like to say hello, talk for a minute, and then just relax. I don’t need someone talking my ear off about traffic and their usual routes to the airport and what’s going on in the city that weekend and how busy they are driving that day and what happened that one time they started driving really early in the morning and how they try to only drive when there’s surge pricing… you get the idea. I just prefer my Uber drivers to please not talk my ear off.

It isn’t always a bad thing. You can use it in an endearing way. You know JR. He’s the producer. He’s from Mexico, and when he came to the US, he discovered all these ways that Americans spend their money that just seemed so foreign to him—like such a waste. If you ask him about the crazy ways Americans spend their money, he’ll talk your ear off. Buying gluten-free food, paying people to walk your dogs, tipping hairstylists, buying flavored olive oil, strollers for pets—now I am an American and I will admit that one is crazy—but JR can go on and on. He can talk your ear off when it comes to the crazy things Americans spend their money on.

There are a couple of stereotypes of people who talk your ear off. Crossfitters—have you ever had a conversation of less than 15 minutes about Crossfit with someone who does it? I didn’t think so. If you engage someone who does Crossfit in a conversation about their workout routine, I guarantee you are not getting out of that conversation for a minimum of 15 minutes. They can talk your ear off about Crossfit.

Crypto. The cryptocurrency enthusiasts will talk your ear off. Well, less so now than during the height of the crypto mania. I remember two years ago, I was at a holiday party with my coworkers. I got stuck sitting next to someone who talked my ear off about Bitcoin. Bitcoin was the future of money. Bitcoin was the only way to protect yourself against inflation. We’re all going to be paying in Bitcoin one of these days. He invested a ton of his savings in Bitcoin. In a few months, it had gone from about $17,000 when we had that conversation to $3,000. He talked my ear off, but good thing I didn’t take his advice and invest in cryptocurrencies back then. Now, I know there are crypto fans in the audience. I have heard from more than a few of you—I’m not saying anything bad about cryptocurrencies as an idea. I am just saying, that a lot of cryptocurrency fans can talk your ear off.

Quote of the week

Today’s episode was about transportation, so I wanted to get you a travel quote. And I thought about one that is also a commonly-used English expression. It’s from a poem called “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Here it is, these are the last three lines of the poem. Here we go: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” The expression in English is “the road less traveled,” and that means to make a choice that is not the popular choice; to not do the thing that everyone else is doing. When the speaker in the poem has the choice between two paths, he chose the one less traveled—and it made all the difference. So the quote once more, from the final lines of the Robert Frost poem is: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”


Thanks again for being with us. We have a lot of new listeners; there are new people discovering the show for the first time. If that’s you—then welcome. We are here every Monday and Thursday, and there’s a rich library of previous episodes to listen to, as well. I’m uploading all the episodes, one by one, to a website in China called Ximalaya and it’s a nice stroll down memory lane to see all the old episode topics once again.

If you’re not on the e-mail list yet, I would encourage you to sign up. Go to PlainEnglish.com/mail . If you sign up there, you’ll get an email for every episode, with links to English articles about the main topic and an extra word or phrase explained in the notes. I also send the occasional message on the weekends about topics we’ve covered in the past. And it’s all free! That’s the fun part. PlainEnglish.com/mail . JR and I will be back on Thursday—see you then.

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