Idiom: Play it by ear / Wing it
– Imagine you have to give a presentation on a topic you’re fairly familiar with, but still haven’t prepared for. If you have to go in right now, without your notes or PowerPoint slides, and give it, we would say that you have to wing it. This means to just jump in and do what needs to be done even if you haven’t prepared for it.
That was a great presentation Bill gave this morning. Can you believe they made him wing it? They only told him about it two hours before it started!
Halfway through the sales meeting, my laptop made a sharp sound and died. So I decided to just wing it from there, and thanks to my excellent sales techniques, I still made the sale!
– Similarly, when you are entering a situation with no real plans made, you are playing it by ear. This expression comes from music, when a musician who hadn’t seen the sheetmusic beforehand would sit down and play a piece he had just heard. Basically, you make decisions as they come up, rather than trying to plan anything definite.
Though we did have the first few days of our road trip planned, we left the rest open, so that we could play it by ear. You never know when you may want to spend more or less time in a place.
“Any plans for the weekend?” “No, we’re going to play it by ear–a lot of it depends on the weather!”
“Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.