Two Tears in a Bucket – Meaning, Usage and Origin

The phrase “two tears in a bucket” has been around since the mid-1800s. But what does it mean? To find out, we’ll explore the idiom’s meaning, examples, origin, similar phrases, and how to say it correctly.

Meaning

The idiom two tears in a bucket is fairly new to the modern lexicon. It means to accept a misfortune or to be unconcerned about an unfavorable outcome.

Example of Usage

People use the two tears in a bucket idiom in place of its more profane rhyming partner, two tears in a bucket, f**k it or two tears in a bucket, mother f**k it. The imagery of the two tears can also be a sarcastic ruefulness about a situation.

A few examples of the two tears in a bucket idiom in common usage:

  • “The groom sat on the wedding cake. Oh well, two tears in a bucket.”
  • “If the new boss doesn’t like my TPS report, two tears in a bucket. What’s she going to do, fire me?”
  • “You already missed the train. Two tears in a bucket, get the next one.”

What is the Correct Saying?

The original phrasing of the idiom is “two tears in a bucket, f**k it.” Alternatively, it would be phrased “two tears in a bucket, mother f**k it.” This phrasing is still quite common today.

However, as the saying has gained more widespread recognition, it is often shortened to simply: “two tears in a bucket.” Most people understand the inference of the latter part of the phrase, so they don’t have to say it.

Idiom Origins

The etymology of this idiom is an Americanized take on the Cockney rhyming slang, which first started in London’s East End in the 1850s.

This type of wordplay takes a common phrase and replaces the last word with a rhyming word. The cockney slang would use the first, non-rhyming word to replace the actual word. The phrases often have some sort of meaningful tie to the word it is replacing.

A familiar example of this is using the word bread to mean money. This is a cockney rhyming slang, taking the word bread from the phrase “bread and honey”, as honey rhymes with money.

The idiom two tears in a bucket began its usage in the urban slang of the 1980s. It first showed up in popular culture in the 1990 movie House Party when Funkadelic’s George Clinton uses a record to hit a bad guy over the head and says, ”two tears in a bucket, f**k it, let’s take it to the stage.”

That same year, rapper Flavor Flav used the similar phrase “two bees in a bucket, mother mother f**k it ” when he was a featured rapper on Ice Cube’s record Amerikkkas Most Wanted.

However, neither of these vehicles gave it widespread awareness as a common idiom. That milestone came in the 1997 movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

In it, one of the characters, played by the famous drag queen The Lady Chablis, says it in response to a malicious remark made to her by another character.  He regards her lifestyle as less than exemplary and makes a comment to that effect. Her use of the idiom in response lets him know what she thinks of his opinion.

In response, Lady Chablis says “It’s like my mother always said, ‘two tears in a bucket, motherf**k it.”

This scene introduced the idiom to the masses and entered it into the widespread common lexicon.

Today, most people use the idiom without the vulgarities tagged on to it. In this sense, it is very much like the cockney tradition, where the real meaning is implied rather than spoken outright.

Similar Phrases and Idioms

Several common idioms and phrases express a similar sentiment as “two tears in a bucket:”

  • Such is life
  • C’est la vie
  • S**t happens
  • Que sera, sera
  • What will be, will be
  • That’s the way the cookie crumbles
  • It is what it is
  • F**k it
  • Mother F**k it

What is the Correct Saying?

“Two tears in a bucket” is often followed by “f**k it” or “motherf**k it.” Thus, the complete phrase is usually two tears in a bucket, f**k it or two tears in a bucket, mother f**k it. Even when you don’t say the whole phrase, the “two tears” idiom implies it.

All of these phrasings are acceptable ways to use the idiom, and it’s at the user’s discretion as to what sort of emphasis or subtlety they want to bring to the saying.

Conclusion

If you feel like saying “f**k it” but don’t want to actually say it, then two tears in a bucket is a great substitute. It’s clever and snappy and flies under the radar just enough not to offend the more sensitive ears in the room. At the same time, it is quick-witted and cuts to the heart of the sentiment without being mean.

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