“I’m tired of talking about Trump,” President Joe Biden said at a CNN town hall meeting in Milwaukee on February 16. “You had the former guy saying that, ‘Well, you know, we’re just going to open things up and that’s all we need to do.’ We said no, you’ve got to deal with the disease before you deal with getting the economy going.”
“The former guy”—not “my predecessor,” not “the 45th president”—is the sort of expression we’ve come to expect from the current guy. Joe Biden is the guy, after all, who’s known for chump and malarkey and C’mon, man, and this is a big fucking deal—folksy, no-BS Joe from Scranton, PA. The former guy: as though he couldn’t be troubled to dredge up the name.
Within 24 hours, New York Times columnist Gail Collins had seized on the dismissive epithet. “I’ve got to say I loved it when Joe Biden described Donald Trump as ‘the former guy,’” she wrote on February 17:
This was at a CNN town hall, and Biden was pursuing his goal of changing the subject from … his predecessor. Part of the strategy seems to be avoiding his actual name.
Excellent agenda. Sitting in disgraced, double-impeached political purgatory, Trump has been trying to retrain the world to refer to him as “the 45th president” during his unwelcome retirement. (If you are lucky enough to get a mass email from him, the return address will be “45 office.”) How cool would it be if he had to sit in front of the TV listening to people talk about “the former guy?”
D.J.T. = T.F.G.
The initialism, terse and a little cryptic, was a perfect fit for social media and a neat counterpunch to MAGA. On Twitter, one of the first people to employ TFG was Pam Keith, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year in Florida’s 18th District.
The “F” stands for “Former,” usually.
Lately, she’s been referring to Trump’s base as “TFGers.”
Dear TFGers:— Pam Keith, Esq. (@PamKeithFL) April 4, 2021
We do not hate white people.
We are just no longer willing to tolerate or put up with white people who hate everyone else.
It going to be important for you to understand the distinction, if you have any desire or hope of escaping social exile.
And it’s been spreading around.
LOL did you see TFG's Easter message this morning?— I'd rather be on this ride (@Cassie84959408) April 4, 2021
There can't be anyone alive that doesn't know that TFG is corrupt. I first learned it in the 80's.— Strongbreeze (@FranklinPalmer7) April 4, 2021
Hitler. Charles Manson. Jim Jones. TFG. There will always be followers no matter how heinous or ridiculous the message.— Shetalksblue (@shetalksblue) April 4, 2021
Not everyone has gotten the memo, though.
Two tweets from April 4, 2021
TFG can have other meanings. Urban Dictionary provides several: Too Far Gone, Thank Fucking God, Taken For Granted. In business, TFG may stand for Washington, DC-based The Ferguson Group (“Advocacy. Consulting. Grants”), Too Fat Goblinz (a gaming store in Stafford, UK), That Franchise Guy (“all things [American] football”), or The Foschini Group, a South African retail chain.
The Foschini Group logo
In Spain, “TFG” may stand for trabajo final de grado, the equivalent of “final degree project.”
At one point during my research I started fixating on the word former and where it came from. Our word meaning “earlier in time” is unrelated to form, which derives from Latin. Rather, it originated in Old English as the comparative of forme, which meant “first” or “earliest in time of order.” The Online Etymological Dictionary notes that the word is “probably patterned on formest (see foremost); it is an unusual case of a comparative formed from a superlative (the Old English –m is a superlative suffix).” Foremost, which now means “most prominent,” is not a compound of fore and most but an altered spelling of formest.
And have you ever wondered why the ordinal form of one is first and not something like oneth? It turns out to share an etymology with former. Fyrst was the Old English superlative of fore.
Somewhat related: LFG.