little pitchers have big ears

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An allusion to the ear-shaped handles common on pitchers used for serving liquids.


little pitchers have big ears

  1. Small children often overhear more of what is said than adults realize or desire.
    • 1844, Charlotte M. Yonge, chapter 2, in Abbeychurch:
      Seeing me listening to something she was saying to Mamma, she turned round upon me with that odious proverb, "Little pitchers have long ears."
    • 1939 April 17, “Bedtime Bedlam”, in Time:
      A caution to U. S. parents, but a joy to radio merchandising, is the dread truth that little pitchers have big ears.
    • 2000, Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, →ISBN, page 185:
      [N]o kid ever ran to his mother and said that his little sister just defecated in the tub. I suppose he might say pushed or went woowoo, but took a shit is, I fear, very much in the ballpark (little pitchers have big ears, after all).

Usage notes[edit]

  • Often used when adults are conversing in the presence of small children, as a coded reminder to be careful about what one says.


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