"Let's go Brandon!"

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ICYMI: Heather Schwedel, "The Story Behind “Let’s Go Brandon,” the Secretly Vulgar Chant Suddenly Beloved by Republicans", Slate 10/22/2021:

On Thursday, Rep. Bill Posey, a Republican from Florida, ended a speech on the House floor with a curious exclamation: “Let’s go, Brandon!”

Let’s go who now?

Posey had been railing against President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill: “They want you to help put America back where you found it and leave it the hell alone,” he said right before the Brandon cheer, which he accompanied with a desultory fist pump.

The expression coming from a sitting member of Congress caused a bit of a stir online. Why? Who’s this Brandon character and what does he have to do with building back, or not building back, America? The simple answer is that he’s a race car driver—but it’s a long story, and who Brandon is actually matters less than what the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon!” means. It’s a euphemism—and its direct translation is “Fuck Joe Biden.”

Here's the origin video:

Here's the congressional usage:

And a quick through the news coverage may amuse you — road signs, t-shirts, music videos, …

Is there a term for this? Euphemism is certainly involved. But the fake (or even real) mis-hearing is kind of like a Mondegreen.

And can anyone think of other examples?



  1. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 9:00 am

    I feel like there must be prior instances of disingenuous mondegreens where someone (for whatever motives) affected* to mishear something vulgar or otherwise problematic as if it were something more benign and/or banal. But I can't think of a clear example. It's not the same thing as e.g. that novelty song from my childhood where in each verse you are primed to think that the final word will be "shit" but then it's "shaving cream." Or as the Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob tells the parole board that his "DIE BART DIE" tattoo just means "the Bart the" in German.

    *I do not personally have a well-founded judgment whether the mondegreenish "mishearing" here was purported/affected versus genuine/sincere, but I think part of the framing of "Let's Go Brandon" as a meme strongly assumes the former. The notion is that the assumed-to-be-disingenuous euphemizing was not intended to protect the reputation of the people who were chanting the vulgar thing (and/or e.g. the reputation of NASCAR events as "family-friendly" or apolitical) but to protect the reputation of the politician the crowd was vulgarly decrying.

  2. D-AW said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 9:38 am

    @JW Brewer Trudeau Sr.'s famous Fuddle Duddle may be related, though that concerned euphemizing a vulgarity by claiming he was misheard, rather than substituting the euphemistic mishearing in the original. But PET's explanations did have the truthy trolling implausibility of "Let's Go Brandon", in that Fuddle Duddle was clearly winking bullshit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuddle_duddle .

  3. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 9:59 am

    Not based on a mishearing (which I think was genuine in this case), but similar in that the euphemism has no transparent connection with the taboo phrase: In college, a friend of mine told a slightly distorted story about a traveler in Russia in the tsars' time. The traveler saw a man come out of a tavern naked, and not realizing that he'd sold his clothes for drinks, said, "Good sir, someone has stolen your nightshirt." The man snarled "Fuck your mother, you son of a whore," and walked on. "Good sir, someone has stolen your nightshirt" became a way some of us expressed annoyance at each other.

    (Here's the actual story from Olearius dating to 1643.

  4. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 1:14 pm

    Whether or not we collectively find better answers to the question myl has posed, I am indebted to D-AW for the opportunity (via comparatively few mouse clicks) to have heard the quite good novelty song "Do the Fuddle-Duddle," which which I had been hitherto unfamiliar and which brightened up my day.

  5. Y said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 2:35 pm

    The euphemism melon farmer is kind of like it. Director Alex Cox came up with it when asked to bowdlerize his own movie, Repo Man, for broadcast TV, presumably because it was so ridiculously transparent.

  6. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 3:14 pm

    "Melon farmer" follows the very traditional pattern of minced profanities like "gosh darn" and "Jiminy Christmas" by leaving the initials of the taboo phrase being substituted for intact and thus making it comparatively easy to deduce what the absent phrase being substituted for is. What's striking about "Lx Gx Bx-dən" is that despite similarities in the middle and end, it's *not* in the form "Fx Dʒx Bx-dən." You're several phonemes deep (the vowel of the second syllable), before you get a match.

  7. Jerry Packard said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 3:37 pm

    My grandfather — a Congregationalist minister — would punish his children if they dared utter the expletive 'gosh'. Accordingly, the only curse I ever heard my father utter was when he told a 16-year-old me that if I bought a motorcycle, "all my schoolwork would go to hell".

  8. Seth said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 4:04 pm

    There's other videos around with more of the surrounding context. Critically, earlier Brandon shouts "LET'S GO!" as a kind of victory cheer (?). It was unclear to me why he was doing this, if it was his slogan or something. But it was apparently entirely unpolitical. I couldn't make it out well, but a few of the crowd might've started chanting "Let's Go, Brandon" for real, as part of this, and then others, louder, did "F*ck Joe Biden" as response? hijacking? additional chant? And the reporter didn't want to give the F'ers acknowledgment and publicity.

    Someone who follows NASCAR could probably fill in the missing background, but this may be a "filter bubble" problem.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 4:45 pm

    Maybe a reasonably good precedent can be found in claims (sometimes true, sometimes not …) that a crowd is not booing but simply chanting [NAME CONTAINING GOOSE VOWEL]. Here's a discussion of some examples, but there are others (esp "BROOOOCE" in a rock-music context): https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/theyre_not_saying_boo_theyre_saying_lou_piniella_sports_cheer

  10. JPL said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 6:04 pm

    While Kool and the Gang's "Ladies' night" has to be the greatest bass-riff-based song in the history of music (all genres — you disagree?), another track on that album had an extraordinary move-compelling complexity that I (and apparently other nonconformists) favored, and that was "Hangin' out". At the time it came out (I was not in the US) I (and others) heard the chant at 3:01 (and later at 4:33) as unmistakably "Awww shit!", and I said, "Wow! Kool and the Gang have really gotten radical! This is a new era in pop music!" Now in the YouTube era I find that others around the world had that same interpretation. It was only recently that I discovered (exactly how I can't remember) that they were actually chanting "ro-o-ck, shake!" Not so earth-shattering, but those words apparently also have esoteric meanings in American disco/funk dance contexts.


    Check it out; put on your headphones, connect your speakers, turn up the volume. And don't just tap your feet; get up!

  11. Victor Mair said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 8:53 pm

    @Jerry Packard

    Since you did have a motorcycle in graduate school (I think you may even have given me a ride on the back of it in Ithaca), what happened to your schoolwork?

  12. Jerry Packard said,

    October 30, 2021 @ 9:19 am


    My Dad was right — my HS schoolwork went straight to heck.

  13. Eric Sadoyama said,

    October 30, 2021 @ 1:01 pm

    What comes to mind is the way that Chinese online commenters get around the government censors by using words and phrases that sort of resemble the political words and phrases they want to use.

  14. cliff arroyo said,

    October 30, 2021 @ 5:02 pm

    "And can anyone think of other examples?"



  15. Avi said,

    October 30, 2021 @ 5:04 pm

    Right after reading the above, I saw:

    People on TikTok now referring to sex work as “Shrek’s work” to bypass filters

    8:52 AM · Oct 28, 2021·Twitter for iPhone

  16. mollymooly said,

    November 1, 2021 @ 5:41 pm

    "And can anyone think of other examples?"
    This 1999 article says Hertha BSC's far-right ultras would shout "Schultheiß" [a surname and historical civic title]; it sounds enough like "Sieg Heil" that a few could shout the latter without being arrested under German anti-Nazi laws.

  17. Viseguy said,

    November 1, 2021 @ 7:31 pm

    @Jerry Packard: Your grandfather's utterance wasn't a curse, it was — from his perspective (evidently) — a statement of fact. I mean, I assume he meant "hell" literally.

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