What does ‘a memory like a sieve’ mean?

What does ‘a memory like a sieve’ mean?

February 26, 2020 26 By Stanley Isaacs


Feifei: Hello and welcome to The English We Speak with me, Feifei… Rob: …and me, Rob. Thanks for joining me in the kitchen today, Feifei, for the unveiling of my new cake. Feifei: It’s just a cake, Rob, but if it’s good, I’m happy to try a slice. Rob: Well, let’s get it out of the oven now… There we go… Ta da! Feifei: Err… looks great, Rob, but let’s try it… It’s a bit stodgy, heavy… even lumpy. Rob: Right. So you don’t actually like it! I followed the recipe exactly, although perhaps I forgot to do something to the flour. I seem to … Oh I seem to have a memory like a… Feifei: A sieve. Rob: That’s it! I didn’t sieve the flour – that explains the lumps. Feifei: No, Rob, I meant you have a memory like a sieve. When we say someone has a memory like a sieve, we mean they have a very bad memory and forget things easily! Your memory is bad, Rob – you can’t forget things when you’re cooking. Rob: Well, I’m not the only one. Listen to these examples. I’ve been making my own lunch to take to work, but I’ve got a memory like a sieve and I keep leaving it at home! My husband’s got a memory like a sieve – he keeps going out and leaving the iron switched on. I’ve got a memory like a sieve – I left the house without my keys this morning and now I’m locked out! Feifei: You’re listening to The English We Speak from BBC Learning English, and we’re talking about the phrase ‘to have a memory like a sieve’. It basically means bits of information fall through your memory and get forgotten, just like flour falling through the sieve that Rob should have used when baking a cake! So are you going to try again, Rob? Rob: No, I think my baking days are over, but luckily I bought one from the shop just in case. Feifei: That’s OK. A shop-bought cake will do – so get it out and I’ll put the kettle on. Rob: Great… err…Now where did I put it? I know it’s around here somewhere? Feifei: Memory like a sieve again, Rob? Rob: Looks like it. I’ve got a lot on my mind, Feifei. Feifei: Don’t worry, I’ve found it – it’s here in the fridge with the milk! Rob: Honestly, I’d forget my own name sometimes! Feifei: Bye, Rob. Rob: Ah that’s it! Bye!