The English idiom "read my lips" is an imperative statement demanding or requesting that listeners pay attention to the meaning of the words that the speaker is saying. The phrase is most commonly used on its own, where somebody who says “read my lips,” really wants to drive home a point to an audience. The phrase is commonly followed up with a clear, short statement that aptly demonstrates the speaker’s main point.
As one of the more concrete idioms of English language, the phrase, “read my lips,” uses a fairly literal meaning. When someone reads someone’s lips, they are looking at the way that the mouth moves to figure out what words are being said. This is a primary way for those who are deaf to understand way speakers say.
The underlying meaning for the phrase, “read my lips,” as it is said to those who can hear, goes this way: by simultaneously hearing the words and reading the person slips, the listener will assumedly get the information twice as well. This is why people use the phrase to ask someone to follow what they’re saying closely. The use of this phrase is often seen as somewhat imperial or condescending, since it implies that the listener is not paying careful enough attention. It can also be taken as a promise, where the speaker is assuring the listener that he or she really means what he or she is saying.
In recent times, this old idiomatic phrase was revived by American Pres. George Herbert Walker Bush in a campaign speech regarding taxation. This full use of the phrase was, “read my lips: no new taxes.” The phrase was subsequently taken up as a mantle by antitax activists, and also treated with derision by others. According to media reports, the president later did raise some taxes, which delegitimized his use of the phrase.
The English lexicon includes several phrases that have a similar meaning as “read my lips.” Another way to say this would be, “Let’s make this clear,” or “Get this straight.” In general, the word “straight” refers to clarity of expression, where English speakers may talk about getting an issue “straight” or commonly understanding the fact involved in a matter. Alternately, an English speaker might say, “I really mean it,” or use some other more concrete expression of assurance.