There was the following passage in New Yorker's (March 25) article titled "A bad day in American-Israeli relations:

“I talk to him all the time. He is representing his country’s interests the way he thinks he needs to, and I’m doing the same. This can’t be reduced to a matter of, somehow, let’s all hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya.’ ” Obama has made this case before, in other contexts—for example, in response to complaints that, if he only drank more with Boehner, the Republicans would never shut down the government. He is not good at faking cheer, and, in this case, Netanyahu is not good at nurturing it in him.”

I think I can guess what “faking cheer” means by the context of the above sentence, but am not sure. Does it mean President isn’t very sociable? What is the exact translation of someone who is not good at faking cheer?

Google Ngram indicates that the words,"fake cheer" came into use in / around 1980 and is fast growing in its usage. Does it pass as a common turn of phrase today?

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    It means either that he is not good at pretending to be happy, or he's not good at "making merry", just to fit in socially. It's not so much that he isn't sociable, it's more that he's bad at pretending to have a good time. Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 3:02
  • Incidentally, the New Yorker is considered an extremely pretentious publication in the U.S., largely because it uses antiquated or inventive phrasing, as well as non-standard spellings (i.e. they actually spelled "cooperative" with an umlaut over one of the 'o's. Which is a bit insane considering ö isn't even a letter in the English alphabet). I would not recommend non-native speakers read the New Yorker. In fact, I'd go one further- I don't recommend anyone read the New Yorker. Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 3:10
  • @Parthian Shot. I used to ask questions about the expressions used in New York Times' columnist,Maureen Dowd’s articled, and have received comments from several users recommending me to read New Yorker instead of reading Dowd’s and other NYT writers’ articles. They told in their comment that the New Yorker’s articles are contemporary and refined in its style. You say New Yorker’s writings stink. As a non-native English speaker, I can not judge which side is true. Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 3:36
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    Readers who cannot tell the difference between an umlaut and a diaeresis are well advised to follow Parthian Shot's recommendation never to read the New Yorker. Otherwise their heads might explode, what with all the pretentious non-standard inventiveness and suchlike that they're liable to run into there. And who would want that?
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 3:47
  • That's fair- I should be clearer. I think the quality of the journalism is good, and if you understand most of it, and enjoy it, then of course you should read it. However, I have noticed odd turns of phrase do show up in the articles occasionally, so if you see an unfamiliar spelling or phrase, a good default assumption is that it's uncommon overall. That's partly an artifact of the reading level, and partly because it has a more literary target audience (so they feel more comfortable playing with language). Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 3:47

1 Answer 1


As other commentators have suggested faking cheer just means pretending to be cheerful. Cheer can mean a general demeanour as well as a literal cheer, (a cheerful person) and faking means having the outward appearance of something which does not reflect reality.

It does not necessarily mean that someone is not sociable. Among people they actually want to socialise with, -- people they see eye-to-eye with and consider freidns -- they may be the life and soul of the party. In those situations, he would be genuinely cheerful.

However, there may be times when it would benefit someone to pretend that they were having a great time with someone they dislike. People vary in their ability to "pretend", or fake, enjoyment with those they dislike or who they know dislike them. Too little of such an ability to fake cheer suggests social ineptness, too much suggests underlying dishonesty.

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