Joe Biden Teaches Slang
Updated: Aug 10, 2022
Learning English can be difficult – not in a small part because the language is overflowing with slang, idioms, and metaphors. These figures of speech can be counterintuitive to their dictionary definitions, and their usage does not always match their intended meaning.
Fortunately, the English language has a great practitioner and teacher of figurative language: President Joe Biden.
The president gives a lot of speeches, remarks, and interviews. While speaking, he says things that don’t exactly mean what you think it means, and this creates the perfect opportunity to further your grasp of the English language.
Here are a few signature pieces of slang you can learn from Joe Biden:
President Biden loves some malarkey….or maybe he hates it? Or maybe he hates that he loves it? What is malarkey?
According to the Mariam-Webster dictionary, Malarkey is a word of unknown origin that first appeared in the year 1923. It means “insincere or foolish talk.” The word isn’t slang so much as it is an unused and dated term, although you may still find it useful for improving your understanding of English, especially if you find yourself in a conversation with an older individual.
President Biden uses the term quite often, usually to express his dissatisfaction with opposing ideas or rhetoric like in the viral moment during the 2012 vice presidential debate with former Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, where Biden used the phrase to rebuke a criticism Ryan made about the Obama Administration's foreign policy agenda.
President Biden enjoyed the phrase so much that during his 2020 presidential run, he campaigned on “No Malarkey” and had the phrase painted on his tour bus. Since then, the president's favorite phrase has gained notoriety, and it has become popular among Joe Biden memes across the internet.
How would this term be used in daily life? If a stranger told you that your favorite football team was the worst in the league, you might describe his opinion as malarkey.
The President has added this phrase to his vocabulary relatively recently – most notably during his 2020 Presidential debates with former President Donald Trump. After that night of back and forth deliberation, it became a classic among Joe Biden quotes.
Pronounced as “Come on” or “Come on, man” but often contracted to “C’mon,” the literal meaning of the phrase is to physically move to or follow the speaker, but it is often used rhetorically to express frustration, disbelief, or skepticism of an opinion or situation.
You might encounter this phrase in the real world when you are running late for work and traffic is backed up. You would shout “C’mon, man!” to show your frustration at the situation.
Are you kidding me?
President Biden has many ways to voice his objections to a situation; this phrase, like the previous two, falls into that category.
“Are you kidding me” is used to express disbelief. The phrase implies that the speaker has made such a dubious statement that they must be joking.
Take the exchange between President Biden and Dr. Swati Mohan after the landing of the Perseverance rover. Mohan, an Indian-American aerospace engineer who worked as the Guidance and Controls Operations Lead for the 2020 NASA Mars mission, played an integral role in the landing. After the mission, President Biden called to congratulate the team:
President Biden: Hey doc, how are you?
Dr. Swati Mohan: I’m doing very well, Mr. President. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.
President Biden: Are you kidding me? What an honor this is – this is an incredible honor…
Biden uses the phrase to light-heartedly express his disbelief that she would thank him in the face of her and her team’s incredible achievement.
If you are looking for humorous president quotes, this one might take the cake.
Lower the temperature
“Lower the temperature” is an idiom that signifies the de-escalation of a situation. It’s related to the idea that anger is synonymous with heat – phrases like "blood running hot," "blood boiling," "heated," "hot head," and "losing your cool" all mean to get angry. In contrast, phrases like "let cooler heads prevail," "simmer down," or "take a chill pill" are linked to cooler temperatures. To put it all together, lowering the temperature means going from hot to cold; or from angry to calm.
President Biden used this phrase on the campaign trail as part of his central message to bring Americans back together. In his inaugural address, he stated “We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.”
As you learn English, look to hear this phrase from politicians on the campaign trail or during contentious meetings at the office.
Stand in the other person’s shoes
Another phrase from his inaugural speech, when President Biden spoke of overcoming fear and trepidation about the future of the country through the power of unity, he stated that “if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes for just a moment,” then the country would be alright.
To stand in another person’s shoes derives from the idiom “before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” Despite the president's unique take on the phrase's wording – don't consider this a Joe Biden gaffe – the meaning is the same. The phrase challenges the listener to empathize with an individual’s circumstances before passing judgment.
President Biden was asking the country – during a time of historic political divide – to empathize with the people across the political aisle, from different walks of life, with diverging interests to find the common thread of humanity that unites us all together.
This phrase comes to us from President Biden’s remarks at the Pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey, where he stated:
“You know, as a University of Delaware man, I’m partial to Blue Hens, but today we’re going to talk turkey.”
When the president wants to talk turkey, don’t expect him to gobble. Nor will he want to discuss turkey recipes, turkey hunting, turkey anatomy, or any of the other finer points of turkey. The conversation won’t be about turkey at all.
The Cambridge Dictionary gives the meaning of talk turkey as “to discuss something honestly and directly.” As president, Biden has to be direct and honest in his communication, or else his constituents, fellow civil servants, and the population as a whole will lose confidence in his leadership.
If you would like to learn more about figures of speech and other difficult phrases, check out our courses in English. At ReDefiners, we specialize in teaching language through online courses and group class conversations. You can begin learning immediately by signing up for classes twice a week and participating in group sessions for real, practical conversation experience. We offer classes in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. For more information, please visit our online program page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.