Last night I had my play-reading group read through "Uncle Vanya" by Anton Chekhov. At one point a character is gathering folks together to tell them something important. In one translation he says, "I crave your indulgence, ladies and gentlemen; hang your ears, if I may say so, on the peg of attention." In another version it was the coat rack of attention.
Is this some kind of Russian slang from the 1890's?