have Van Gogh's ear for music

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Van Gogh (a painter, not a musician) is famed for cutting off his own ear. The phrase is attributed to Billy Wilder.

Verb[edit]

have Van Gogh's ear for music

  1. (humorous) To be tone-deaf.
    • 1970, Tom Wood, The bright side of Billy Wilder, primarily
      After listening to Cliff Osmond, a huge, 225-pound actor, rehearse a song he was to sing as part of his role in Kiss Me, Stupid, Billy observed, not unkindly, "You have Van Gogh's ear for music."
    • 2006, Stephen Murray, Darin Jewell, Dirty Laundry (page 2)
      [] some inebriated idiot belting out a karaoke number thinking that he or she is perfectly in tune and the rest of the audience is somehow captivated by the performance — most of them have Van Gogh's ear for music.
    • 2011, Joseph O'Connor, Cowboys and Indians (page 148)
      Brian had Van Gogh's ear for music. When Clint told him that he said, 'Hey, that's great, thanks Clint,' like it was a compliment.

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