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What's the meaning of the phrase "plays in minds of someone". For example, in the sentence below.

The significance of the IELTS is a fact that plays in the minds of hopeful migrants like Mr. Want2Immi.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

(Thanks to @unreason for ferreting out actual usage statistics on what turns out to be a more variable but less common phrase than I had supposed).

Something plays on your mind if you're continuously worrying about it.

I've always known the expression as play on one's mind, but in is just as common (bad choice of word, since neither occur that much).

An alternative equivalent is to weigh heavily (up)on one's mind, as discussed (initially in French, but it's not that long) here

I personally am only familiar with the expression in reference to a single mind - usually your own, when bewailing the fact that you can't stop being obsessed by some particularly unwelcome thought. But it does get used in respect of an oppressive concept troubling many people at once.

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two notes: if a group of people share something (hopeful migrants) they can certainly share a worry. The other note is that searching through books I find examples of the phrase "play in the minds" (see google.com/… , disregard false matches ) –  Unreason Jun 7 '11 at 15:23
@Unreason: On checking, I find you're quite right on both counts. Disregarding false matches, both on and in seem to occur about equally. Though neither of them very often compared to how familiar plays on my mind seems to me. I must just spend too much time with neurotics who all use the same idiomatic variant. Whatever - thanks for the info, and I'll edit the answer accordingly. –  FumbleFingers Jun 7 '11 at 15:59
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The expression used to be "prey on one's mind", but this has now been transformed by footballerspeak to "play on one's mind."

You're welcome.

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Is to use your body by moving it, to enjoy something.

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In what way does “plays in the mind” mean “to use your body by moving it”. You seem to have answered a different question than the one at the top of the page. –  tchrist Feb 27 '13 at 14:31
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