What’s the origin of the ‘world’s smallest violin’?

1 May 2018, 17:38 | Updated: 1 May 2018, 17:56

World's smallest violin
World's smallest violin. Picture: Giphy

If you’re actually sad, the world’s smallest violin is a patronising and unwelcome reaction. But where did it come from?

Sometimes, annoying things happen. There’s no toilet paper when you really need it, there’s no more milk for your cereal – you know the sort of thing.

These minor irritations can persuade others to get their tiny imaginary violin out and give you the following look of total pity, as a musical accompaniment to your whining.


And we think we’ve found the origin of it.

The first reference to it in popular culture was in a 1978 episode of the TV show M*A*S*H, during which Major Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit) rubs her thumb and forefinger together and says: “It’s the world’s smallest violin, and it’s playing just for you.”

However, it’s perfectly possible the reference goes back a lot further than a 1970s TV shows.

The song it’s based on is ‘Hearts and Flowers’, which was composed by Theodore Moses Tobani (lyrics by Mary D. Brine) back in 1899.

So here’s the original world’s smallest violin music…

Czibulka/Tobani - Hearts and Flowers