world's smallest violin

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A version of Hearts and Flowers on violin was used in many melodramatic films in the early 1900s. From this and the use of other violin pieces in melodramatic films derive the term hearts and flowers (extremely sentimental and sweet), the phrase break out the violins (in a dismissive/sarcastic show of sympathy), and the image of a violin (small, to reflect that the woe complained of is perceived to be small) playing Hearts and Flowers or "the world's saddest song" in response to complaints of woe.


world's smallest violin

  1. (humorous) A notional violin that plays tragic music for the afflicted; used in dismissive responses to complaints of woe.
    • 2002, “Squilliam Returns”, in SpongeBob SquarePants, season 3, episode 48b, spoken by Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown):
      Ohh, boo-hoo! Let me play a sad song for you on the world's smallest violin.
    • 2007, Joseph P. Natoli, This is a picture and not the world: movies and a post-9/11 America, page 109:
      The world's smallest violin playing hearts and flowers for every sweetheart of the Midwest who didn't make it in Hollywood.
    • 2008, Patsy Clairmont, I Second That Emotion: Untangling Our Zany Feelings:
      He stretches out his arm and then rubs his thumb and forefinger together as if he is playing the world's smallest violin for the world's largest whiner. How rude is that?
    • 2010, Geo Gosling, TBI Purgatory: Comes After Being in TBI Hell, page 102:
      Even someone upset about something as serious and awful as cancer wasn't safe from my world's smallest violin. Well, you have cancer. That sucks but cancer has been beaten.
    • 2021, “World’s Smallest Violin”, in OK Orchestra, performed by AJR:
      The world's smallest violin / Really needs an audience / So if I do not find somebody soon (That's right, that's right) / I'll blow up into smithereens
    • 2023, Aubrey Allegretti, The Guardian, 09 Aug 2023, I The outdated Commons culture will endure unless parties work together:
      “We are privileged to have this job – but also face some uniquely terrible employment practices. You can’t talk openly about them without feeling it’s like getting out the world’s smallest violin,” sighed one MP.

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