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      • Native Language:
      • Bulgarian
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      • Bulgaria
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    • Join Date: Sep 2007
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    "not on message"

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to explain to me the meaning of the expression on bold in the following excerpt from an English text?

    The sources say Obama feels Biden was excellent in the Senate, where he chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. But they whisper to the media that the president and some advisers believe Biden has been a dismal failure as vice president, often being “not on message” and unpredictable.

    I know the meaning of the phrase "The medium is the message" which illustrates my thinking that the medium that delivers a message impacts how a message is perceived. For example, an advertisement appearing in the New York Times may be perceived as more credible than an identical ad in a small local newspaper.

    I know also the meaning of the word “message” namely “a piece of news or a request sent from one person to another”. Also: An important idea that a writer or artist is trying to bring to people.

    Dogs come when they're called. Cats take a message and get back to you.

    Can it be true that Obama should like to be a manager of a menagerie?

    The meaning of the phrase “on message” is beyond me.

    Thank you for your efforts.



    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 21
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    Re: "not on message"

    I'm sorry to say that even though I'm a well-educated native speaker, I've never come across such a phrase before. Maybe it's an American thing....

    Anyway, I love your theories, but I'm guessing that's not what the author was trying to say.

    My personal guess is that "not on message" means Biden does things that are contrary to the message that Obama usually likes to give to people.

    As I said, that's me guessing, because the sentence is not standard English.

    Similar, related phrases are:

    "Bidin is not on board (with something)" = Bidin disagrees or doesn't want to join in

    "Bidin strays from the party line" = Bidin doesn't properly follow a political party's policies

    Was it from an American text? Maybe ask someone from the U.S. to be sure

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