“You ate my ears” (μου έφαγες τα αυτιά)
EF is eight-two-year-old women who is like a surrogate grandma to me. She lives in Northridge, CA., but grew up in a small Greek village called Corfu; she remains very connected to her Greek heritage and culture. From her cooking to her proverbial warnings, she is filled with unique folklore that she loves to share. I asked EF to facetime with me, so I could gain knowledge from her, for this project. Since she is eighty-two, she does not remember the origins of most of her folk speech. However, she did recall where and who she always heard saying the metaphor, “You ate my ears.”
EF- There was a group of widows in my village that always sat around and all they did was gossip (rolls her eyes). They were always saying that someone ate their ears, so someone is too loud and obnoxious.
EF- Many Greek husbands yell this at their wife if she is nagging (laughs).
Interviewer- Did your ex-husband ever say that to you?
EF- No! You crazy girl (laughing). If he did, I would’ve slapped him (powerful Greek woman smile).
EF also explained that the reason for so many odd sayings in her small village was due to lack of education. She said since they didn’t have good vocabularies, people would try to express themselves with combinations of words they knew. She also mentioned that another use for the metaphor was to ward off street salesman who wouldn’t leave.
This folk metaphor is common throughout Greece; however, like a lot of folk speech, is it difficult to pinpoint the exact origin. The informant first heard the saying from a group of older women who were widows in her small village, which shows how useful this phrase was in multiple generations’ conversations. This is a blatant insult that seems to only be directed at women and never men but can be used by either gender. As the informant explained, the phrase is often used by husbands to describe their wives’ unfavorable behaviors. This speaks to how prominent the stereotype was of Greek women, especially Greek wives, as very loud nagging figures. The commonality of the metaphor reveals some degree of sexism during that time period, perhaps by both men and women, since the widows used it to describe only other women in the village, but not men.