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... Spaghetti on Your Ears!

Written by Tetyana Bykova

Believe me! I am not hanging spaghetti on your ears!

It is interesting - we use so many idiomatic expressions in our every-day life, and some of them are really hard to understand where they come from. For instance, why someone would look like a cucumber, or why someone would have seven Fridays in a week?

There is an idiom which I have been thinking about for a very long time. Oftentimes we use this expression - "do not hang spaghetti on my ears!" It means - do not lie to me or you are kidding me. But where does it come from? Why spaghetti, or to be accurate in the translation, noodles? Well recently, when a very good friend from the US asked me about this saying, I decided to make a small research, and here is what I found.
Вешать лапшу на уши [‘veshat' lap'shu ‘na ushi] - to hang noodles onto somebody's ears.
Meaning: to deceive, to lie, to cheat, to tell cock-and-bull stories, to distract someone with a smooth talk.
During the 80-90-ies, which were the last years of Soviet period, many new idioms and sayings appeared from the street language or slang, often the prison slang. There were so many of them that still the etymology has not been fixed in the dictionaries for phraseology of the Russian language. However, there are versions. According to one of them, the word "lapsha", or noodles, among the prisoners has several different meanings, and one of them stands for a scrap (of cloth). Because one can "hang his ears" (another idiom meaning to listen open-mouthed), you can "put the scrap" onto his ears and thus make this person "deaf" for a while (figuratively, of course) and tell him whatever you want - telling him cock-and-bull stories, while he will be thinking that is true. Thus, to put or to hang noodles onto someone's ears became a very often used saying among us.
Now I will give you an example of real situation, which often happens in Ukraine - and, hopefully, not only will it give you the idea of how and when to use this saying, but also will tell you more about life in Ukraine.

Example 1. A common situation between a passenger and a taxi driver.
- Hello, will you take me to the airport, please?
- Sure!
- How much will it be from here?
- Well, that will be about 50 gryvnas.
- What? Are you kidding me? It takes only 10 minutes to get there! That's too much!
- Hey, just so that you know, the prices for the petrol jumped so high during only this recent week!
- Не вешай мне лапшу на уши! (Don't hang the noodles on my ears!) I myself drive and I know what the prices are!
The taxi drivers often tell us cock-and-bull stories about the prices or devise some others just because someone needs transportation right away, and the taxi drivers are the "kings of situation", as we say, and can charge really unreasonable prices sometimes. In Kharkov, for example, it is usually cheaper to have a cab from a taxi-service office, rather than catch one at the road. Particularly, if you catch one in the down-town, they charge a lot there.

And because we have started this talk about ears, there is one more expression here:
Уши развесить [‘ushi raz'vesit'] - to hang one's ears.
Meaning: to believe anything you hear, to be very naïve, to listen with open mouth.
When you listen to someone very attentively, especially someone who is openly cheating you and you tend to believe anything he/she is saying, we say that you "give" your ears, or "hang" them openly and freely to any baloney.

Example 2. Women. We sometimes want to hear sweet words so badly that we tend to be really naïve.
- You know, darling, this guy, he is so nice to me! He says he's going to take me to see the whole world with him! He says I will have the most beautiful jewelry! He says he will buy a cozy house in a peaceful place. He says he...
- Aha.. And where is he now?
- Oh, he is working hard and ...
- You know, I think ты развесила уши (you hung your ears), and he - он навешал тебе лапшу на уши (and he hung noodles on them) so that you are always there when he wants it. Yesterday I saw him with a pretty lady in a car, and they did not really look like they are friends! You take care, darling.
Sometimes, though, it is really good to развесить уши and hear something pleasant. It does not necessarily mean that you will be lied to. Maybe not? But it's also good to be careful - some time you may find noodles on your ears!

I wish you trust in your life, trust to people who care for you, because we can hardly live without it.

If you have your own idea about where the saying comes from, or similar idioms in your language, you are welcome to write me about them. I look forward to hearing from you.

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