‘Listen Twice’ Proverb

Main Piece

Literal Phrase: “You got two ears and one mouth, so you can listen twice as much as you talk.”


Informant Interpretation: “Be quiet and pay attention.”

Personal Interpretation: A harsher way of telling someone to quiet down, on par with a more formal version of “shut up.” Also feels intended to provoke the listener towards the importance of listening, and points to a physical obligation to do so. To me, sounds and feels very much like something an adult would teach a kid as part of a manners lesson–an instruction on how to act within the world, with a proverbial explanation as to why.


My informant is a practicing speech pathologist in Pasadena, California. She is in her 70s and of European descent (English, Irish, and Welsh). She recalls hearing this proverb from her mother, who learned it from her father. The informant’s grandfather was a strict man who didn’t like people who talked a lot, and he used it to quiet down his daughters. Her grandfather had six daughters and there was always “lots of drama in the house,” and she recalls it being part of his mannerism instruction. Her mother shared his tendency to use proverbs, but did not use this one herself to the informant’s memory.

Informant’s grandfather worked for the city of Los Angeles as a cartographer, and passed away when the informant was 16.