So, exactly how does the go? – “Keep yourcards close come the vest”(?) – or is it, “close come the chest?
Of the 2 options, “close come thevest” is the original, dating to late 1905.To pat one’s cards “close to the chest” come later, yet not much later. Purists, striving tocleave to the original construction, however, should say the contempt wordier, yet less confusing, “close come the vest buttons.”
The vest-chest man is understandable,given that they rhyme and are located in approximately the very same place; swapping thewords has nearly no result on the cadence, sound or meaning of the phrase. It additionally does not assist that vests space out offashion; human being hearing the expression for the first time more than likely gravitate towardchest, due to the fact that it is much more familiar. Revertingto the original ‘close to the vest buttons’ could obviate several of the confusion– i don’t watch anyone trying to say, ‘close come the chest buttons.’ however that idiom wouldprobably just die a slow death. Us seemto be stuck to the two, competing, yet otherwise the same idioms.

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The idioms, to store somethingclose to her vest, or chest, room allusions come the video game of poker. Simply as a poker player may shot to hide hiscards indigenous his other players, a person affiliated in business, relationships, orsome kind of negotiation may shot to ‘keep your cards close to the vest (orchest);’ in various other words, withhold or stop disclosing specific information,emotions, or other factors that might otherwise damage their position.
Because the the meaning of thephrase, ns would have actually expected the idiom to have actually grown, organically, amongst theriverboat gamblers the the mid-nineteenth century, or among Old West saloon dudes,gambling in locations like miss Kitty’s Longbranch Saloon, in the late-nineteenthcentury. Surprisingly, however, thephrase did not arise naturally indigenous poker players, generally; it appears tohave to be coined by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter while creating abiography of a potential candidate for President.
Poker is one American game. The word, poker, is believed to it is in derivedfrom the previously French video game of poque. Pokeris believed to have developed along the Mississippi river, betweenFrench-influenced new Orleans and also Memphis.Professional gamblers, plying the waters the the early on West, talk theriverboats taking a share of the wealth generated by the upriver businessmenand the downriver plantation owners.

Pop-cultural depictions ofriverboat gamblers generally display men with long coats, a cable tie, and also avest. Once the age of the riverboatgambler concerned a close as rail transport supplanted riverboattransportation during the expansion of the West after ~ the polite War, poker travelledwest. Floor speculation, gold rushes andthe livestock business, in soil now accessible by the railroad, produced newwealth, eight towns, and cowboys v money in your pockets in ~ the end of a longcattle drive. The Old West was fertileground for poker. Pop-cultural representationsof west dudes playing poker generally display a male wearing a cowboy hat, a jacketand a vest.
When people took organize inthe West, following the early on days that settlement and also expansion, the job of thewild and also woolly West passed to history.A city lamenting the finish of legitimate gambling in Arizona is one of the earliestappearances of the phrase, ‘cards close come the vest,’ in print:
Although phrase, ‘cards near tothe vest,’ is offered literally in the poem, the poem borrowed the phrase from theidiom, which had actually been coined much less than 2 years earlier.

Close to the Vest Buttons


The idiom an initial appeared, in itsoriginal type (close to the vest buttons), in wilhelm Allen White’sbiography the Joseph W.Folk, the governor of Missouri.White, a friend of Theodore Roosevelt (who continued to be at White’s house inMissouri twice) would go ~ above to victory a Pulitzer prize in 1923. The won for an article about free-speech writtenafter his arrest for criticizing the State the Kansas’ treatment of strikers inthe great Railroad strike of 1922. GovernorFolk, who had been elected Governor in 1904, was a reform-minded moralist whomWhite experienced as a potential presidential candidate. White contrasted Folk’s diplomatic an abilities to thoseof president McKinley (who had been assassinated simply a couple of years earlier) inwords that call to mental a video game of poker:
Heplays the game of life with a smiling face, but with his cards close come hisvest buttons. That is as unimpulsive asMcKinley whom, in many ways, he strong resembles. Over there is naught of the dare-devil in Folk,though insomuch together the bluff is a well-known weapon of refined diplomacy heuses it deftly.
William Allen White, Folk: The Story the a small Leaven in aGreat Commonwealth, which showed up in McClure’sMagazine, Volume XXVI, Number 2 (December, 1905), web page 125. Folk’s political star never ever rose – the servedonly one term as governor and also lost a campaign for the Senate years later. White’s brand-new idiom, however, has had actually a longand effective career.
The freshly minted idiom receivedimmediate attention. The new York Tribune reprinted a briefexcerpt native the substantial Folk biography in beforehand December, just as theDecember worry of McClure’s was hitting the newsstands. The editors appeared to have took pleasure in the pokeridiom. The brief excerpt, which appearedin a segment entitled, ideal Things CulledFrom the American Magazines for December, closed through the words, “close tohis vest buttons.”
Within a few weeks, anothernewspaper recycle the idiom in an unrelated context, while prolonging the poker allusion:
Then come the railroad price question,and once that has actually been vote on through the House, the Senate will have actually all the bigcards in the hands. What will it carry out withthem? political leaders of premium powers space on deck, and they space playing theircards these days unusually nearby to your vest buttons.”
The Arizona gambling-prohibitionpoem, which came out the following year, reused the idiom, in a literal meaning sense,but without the buttons. Within a fewyears, the button-less idiom would show up with enhancing frequency:
“Areyou sure, Gus, mine dear young friend, the we are not too conservative inselling however a quarter of a million bushels each? There’s together a point asplaying ‘em too close come the vest, you know.”
Peter B. Kyne, Cappy Ricks, Wheat Baron: within J.Augustus Redell Scores a Knock-Out, which showed up in The Saturday evening Post, February 24, 1917, web page 22;
Juliusis a strictly organization man and also plays his card “Close come his vest,” that is agenial sort, renowned with the ladies, and was once mistaken because that a French Count- - - he vehemently protested that he to be a German no-count.
In 1919, the originator that the idiom, william Allen White, revisitedthe phrase; however this time without buttons and also with a more extended pokermetaphor. In an article an important ofJapan’s role in the peace negotiations the took location at the end of people WarI, that wrote:
“Well,this is the finish of a perfect international poker party.” within the Japs have actually been sitting four longmonths with their cards nearby to their vests, smiling, protecting every ante,saying nothing – certain nothing. . . Taking no part, but keeping to crawl eyeson the operation of the cards, learning every advantage others received and lookingthe other means or benignly agreeing the Providence is undoubtedly wise andjust. Then, Japan finding that the runof the video game made her essential to the success of civilization peace, very closely rolledup her sleeves, placed her hands in and grabbed.
“Close come the vest” was right here tostay; and “Close come the Chest” to be not much behind.
By the nature that card-playing,poker players had actually long played v their cards nearby to their vests, or chests,whether or not that plot or phrase created the basis of a common, idiomaticphrase. It was probably unpreventable thatthe phrase could show up earlier in the literal sense, if not the idiomaticsense. Surprisingly, however, my surveyof the literary works uncovered just one such circumstances from prior to 1905:
Holdinghis cards close come his chest, that peered in ~ them cautiously. As soon as he had satisfied himself that he was notmistaken in the first estimate of his hand he placed his cards, challenge down,carelessly in prior of him and smiled the laugh of a guy who had actually struck a “goodthing” because that the first time. He had actually drawnthree kings.
The phrase, ‘cards close to thechest,’ pops up a couple of times, in the literal meaning sense, after ~ ‘close come the vest’was coined in 1905:
The Virgin, stand behind him, then didwhat a man’s ideal friend was not privileged come do. Getting to over Daylight’s shoulder, she pickedup his hand and also read it, at the same time shielding the encounters of the 5 cardsclose come his chest. What she saw werethree queens and a pair of eights, but nobody guessed what she saw.
Jack London, burning Daylight, The brand-new York Herald company (1910) (reprinted innumerous newspapers).
Given the voice andsubstantive similarities between vest and also chest, the was more than likely alsoinevitable the the idiom, ‘close to the vest,’ would ultimately be expressed as ‘close tothe chest’ in a non-literal sense. And, it happenedquickly. The more quickly such usage that i was able to find is native 1918:
Asharp man – wits honed come a wire edge and constantly maneuverin’ come hand the otherfellow the sho’t finish of the bargain. Allof i beg your pardon leads approximately the advice to keep a close top lip and also play the cardsclose to yo’ chest.
Ralph D. Paine, TheCall that the Offshore Wind, (1918), chapter 4, Cap’n Joe Dabney “Plays aHunch,” reprinted in The Seattle Star,February 19, 1920.The idiom was used inthe paper definition of super-power national politics in 1921:
“Byplaying alone versus a solid group of powers,” states the Journal, “we riskbeing obliged to do grave concessions.As far as tonnage in large units is concerned, the 50 every cent cutproposed through Secretary Hughes is nothing.A graver hazard threatens the future of ours submarine fleet. We must play ours cards close come our chests.”


\"Close to the vest\" was unheard of, even in the literal sense, before the idiom to be coined in 1905. \"Close to the chest\" was practically unheard of prior to \"close come the vest to be coined,\" having appeared only once before 1905. Yet after wilhelm Allen White coined the idiom, come play one\"s cards close come the vest (buttons), in 1905, both the literal use of \"close to the vest/chest\" and the idiom of \"close come the vest/chest\" occur with boosting frequency.

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I recognize that I have actually notproven, through certainty, the William Allen White coined the idiom, ‘close tothe vest.’ the is feasible that that and/orothers may have actually used the expression casually, amongst themselves prior to the idiomcrept into one that his articles. However,the instant appreciation of and also repetition that the phrase, in the weeks immediately after its firstappearance in print, suggests that the expression was new. You would certainly think the a phrase that received such immediate attention would have actually taken off earlier, if that had, in fact, beencoined or offered earlier. The lack of any such evidence supports the conclusion the it was coined in 1905.The reality that the phrase, also in literal sense, was largely unknown, or in ~ least really uncommon, prior to it was integrated into the idiom, likewise supports the pointer that wilhelm Allen White coined the idiom.