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Is the expression "to have merchant's ears" an idiom or a recognized adage, meaning "pretending not to understand"?

Please explain with examples or provide a better idiomatic phrase.

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Either provide your own citations, or this is not a real question. –  tchrist Jun 19 at 1:12
    
Could it be? Yes. Is it? No. You might say, "Don't waste your breath. It'll fall on deaf ears." or "He's feigning ignorance." –  Jim Jun 19 at 1:15
    
I did find music to merchants' ears in a few instances but nothing that suggests pretending not to understand –  Mari-Lou A Jun 19 at 1:21

3 Answers 3

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However, already in the sixteenth century the merchant and trades- man had acquired a notorious name for fraudulent business habits. Piers Ploughman assigned his selling powers to "the grace of guile gone among" his wares.3 "To play the Merchant with" was synonymous with cheating, and "to have Merchant's ears" meant to affect not to hear when the terms of bargains proved disadvantageous.* -Middlemen in English business, particularly between 1660 and 1760, by Ray Bert Westerfield ... 1915.

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Maybe, but I don't think it's a recognized one. Found some usage in here: to have a merchant's ears, but it's in a different language.

Duymazdan gelmek. (literally “To have a merchant’s ears”) = to turn a deaf ear, to pretend not to hear.

So, I think the terms feigning ignorance or play dumb would be better.

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The etymology is from shipping -I don't have the reference but IIRC, merchants who guaranteed cargo were notorious for seeking information from other faster vessels because of their respondentia. A loss at sea was ruin and their merchant's ears was a temporary salvation –  Third News Jun 19 at 2:26
    
You have the answer in the link. Your example is in Turkish but it is the translation of a famous proverb in a different language. –  Mari-Lou A Jun 19 at 7:15
    
@Mari If you read the link you wrote in your comment you can read 'The origin of this saying comes from the Italian comedy “La pinzochera” (this is the ancient name of a chef who cooks a special kind of pasta), written by Anton Francesco Grazzini in the XVI century. One of the characters says that the merchants can’t hear what they don’t wish to listen to.' –  Elberich Schneider Jun 19 at 8:56
    
@ElberichSchneider I was hoping Sudhir would have edited his answer. To have merchants' ears is the translation of the Italian expression: fare orecchio da mercante I wish I had picked up on it earlier, it completely passed me by, however it is common in Italy. This is the excerpt from the 15th century play: Avvertite a non parlare; e se la madre dicesse qualcosa che non vi andasse per la fantasia, fate orecchi di mercatante. Come orecchi di mercatante? Non odono se non le cose che fanno per loro. Basically the speaker is encouraging the listener to ignore his mother's words! –  Mari-Lou A Jun 19 at 17:39
    
Link to Treccani dictionary (it's in italian). –  Mari-Lou A Jun 19 at 18:00

I guess you are referring to the English idiom known as:

turn a deaf ear(to someone or something):

to ignore what someone says; to ignore a cry for help. How can you just turn a deaf ear to their cries for food and shelter? Jack turned a deaf ear to our pleading.

turn a deaf ear:

Refuse to listen, as in You can plead all day but he's turning a deaf ear to everyone . This expression dates from the first half of the 1400s and was in most proverb collections from 1546 on.

Also fall on deaf ears

The act of not hearing is deliberate.

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