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The meaning and origin of the expression: In my mind's ear

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Mind's ear

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'In my mind's ear'?

One's aural memory or imagination.

What's the origin of the phrase 'In my mind's ear'?

We know what people mean when they say that they can see something in their mind's eye. Our mind's ear is a less familiar concept; although it wasn't so in the 18th century, when the expression was coined.

The mind's ear is the name for the ability that we have to recall sounds, usually speech or music, and replay them in our mind.

The first person known to have given the sense a name was the English poet Matthew Green, using the pseudonym Peter Drake, in The Grotto, 1733:

The thinking Sculpture helps to raise Deep thoughts, the Genii of the place: To the minds ear, and inward sight, There silence speaks.

The expression became as commonly used as the earlier 'mind's eye'. For example, this extract from the diary of Fanny Burney, 1775:

My mind's ear was once more pleased.

These days, the mind's ear is not often used has effectively dropped out of the language.

See also: Mind's eye

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