The phrase “read ’em and weep” is often said in poker when someone has a winning hand, as the others “weep” over their loss. This expression can also refer to things that cause distress to others.
Example: I was waiting in line to grab some movie tickets, but the guy in front of me scooped up the last one! Afterwards, he put the ticket between two of his greasy fingers and looked directly at me. He then taunted: “Read ’em and weep, chump!” all while tearing the ticket in half. “No!” I yelled in disbelief.
It was then I woke up and realized it was all just a bad dream.
Read ‘Em And Weep – Its Origin
This phrase is believed to come from a popular card game known as poker. Poker is a game where players put together different combinations of cards that are worth a set amount of points. Certain arrangements of cards are worth more points than others, hence, during the game, players attempt to build the strongest combination of cards possible before the game is over. At the end, players reveal their cards to each other and whoever has the strongest set of cards wins.
Betting is sometimes involved when playing poker, which can make losing even more painful. When it’s time for players to reveal their cards, that’s usually when someone will say the expression “read ’em and weep.” They say this because they feel like they have the strongest hand and thus victory is assured. It’s essentially telling the other players “read my combination of cards and weep over your loss.” Today, this expression is still used in poker, but it is now used in other contexts outside of card games.
Anyways, the earliest written form of the phrase that I could find is from the early 20th century. For example, the term is used under the ‘Sports News’ section of The San Antonio Evening News newspaper, printed in July 1919:
“With the exception of one or two close decisions, Umpires Lewis and Schaffer did faily good work, probably because they had been made very good ‘boys’ by the irate fans . . . Few arguments were indulged in with the arbiters. Read ’em and weep!”
Of note: Around the same time in 1919, several newspapers used the idiom right before presenting a list of items for sale. The implication was that they probably expected customers to “weep” with happiness after seeing the cheap prices.
- Well, would you look at that! Read ’em and weep fellas, because I have a royal flush.
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