Cry Me a River Meaning – Examples, Origin, and Related Idioms


Although I’m a fan of Justin Timberlake, who’s
multi-talented, I admit I’m not into the kind of pop music he performs. I do think his songs are catchy though and
one of his songs is the subject of this video: Cry Me A River. Off his debut solo album, Justified it has
over 4.5 billion YouTube hits on the official video alone so I think it’s safe to say a
lot of people know this song. The expression in the title and the main chorus
is an idiom. In fact, cry me a river, repeated, is the
entire chorus. The song is about a girlfriend cheating and
then wanting her boyfriend back and him showing no sympathy to her suffering because of her
betrayal. So, he says “cry me a river” meaning that
she can cry all she wants and it will make no difference. Unlike many popular songs that use idioms,
this is a perfect use of the expression. Amazingly, this fairly recent idiom may have
come from a popular song. No, not the Justin Timberlake song, the expression
is older than that. Let’s get to the meaning and some examples
first, and then I’ll talk about the origin, or possible origin, of this idiom. Meaning of the English Idiom: Cry Me a River
Cry me a river is a sarcastic response to someone who is expressing sadness or t one
who is complaining and for whom you have no sympathy. Usage of Idiom: Although cry me a river can
be used in response to actual crying, tears are not necessary for the idiom to be used. It is usually used as a simple exclamatory
phrase, “Cry me a river!” Examples Of Use: “I’m only going to be able
to take one week for my vacation this year. I’m so bummed!” said Ted. “Oh, cry me a river. I don’t get any paid vacation at all!” “Please forgive me,” said Ray. “I didn’t mean to cheat on you. It just happened. I really miss you.” “Cry me a river,” replied Gwynn. “Oh I miss Lindsey, I can’t believe they fired
her,” said Stephanie. “Oh cry me a river. You didn’t waste any time insisting that you
should have her old position.” Those TV commercials with the sad shelter
puppies make me so upset!” “Cry me a river. I recall you paid a thousand dollars for a
designer dog.” Origin of Idiom: Used since at least the latter
half of the 1900s, as I said, this idiom may have come from a popular song of the 1950s. It was called Cry Me a River and it was written
by Arthur Hamilton and recorded in 1955 by Julie London. It reached number nine on the charts. The song was originally intended to be sung
by Ella Fitzgerald in the 1955 film Pete Kelly’s Blues but was dropped from the film. Since Hamilton, the songwriter, and Julie
London were longtime friends, he gave her a chance to record the song, to great success. Although it is not certain, Hamilton may well
have coined the idiom when he wrote the song. He claimed that he had never heard the phrase
before penning the lyrics. It is possible he was repeating an existing
idiom and simply did not recall hearing it before, but as far as is known, the song is
the source of today’s expression. There is actually a very similar idiom in
English that is much older. The only difference is that it wasn’t always
used in a sarcastic way: My Heart Bleeds for You. Originally, as far back as the 1300s, my heart
bleeds for you and variations such as my heart bleeds tears were used to express severe anguish
and sympathy. But since the late 1940s the idiom has been
used in a much different way. This can be confusing since this idiom can
still be used sincerely, today. However, it is usually used to indicate mock
sympathy and as a way to suggest that the person doesn’t really deserve any sympathy. In other words, the exact opposite is meant. This is especially true when the expression
is spoken directly from one person to another. However, when it is used the past tense in
regards to a third party it may be genuine. Don’t confuse this with the alternative, my
heart goes out to you, which is always sincere. A contemporary humorous riff on this idiom
is to rub your thumb and forefinger together in front of you. When the person to whom you are speaking asks
what you are doing, you say ‘It’s the world’s smallest violin and it’s playing my heart
bleeds for you.’ I’m not sure, but I think this probably came
from a popular television show. Although not the originator, I did see Mr.
Krabs on Spongebob use this gesture. He didn’t name a song but he was apparently
playing another song called Woe Is Me, although greatly sped up. As far as I know, and believe me, I’ve searched,
there is no popular song with the title My Heart Bleeds For You, although there have
been songs using the phrase my heart bleeds. You’re breaking my heart, if spoken with the
proper sarcastic tone, is a synonym. If you liked this video and found it helpful,
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3 thoughts on “Cry Me a River Meaning – Examples, Origin, and Related Idioms

  1. The Cry Me a River video has over 341 million views. I thought it was 4.5 million and then said billion in the video! Numbers are not my strong suit. 😀

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