Cup of Joe – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did someone invite you out for a “cup of joe?” What do they mean? Are they talking about President Joe Biden or something? This post unpacks this idiomatic expression’s meaning, origin, and use.

Cup of Joe Meaning

A cup of Joe” refers to the world’s favorite beverage, coffee. More than 60% of Americans start their day with a cup of coffee. Using a “cup of Joe” to describe your morning ritual is commonplace, especially in America, but it’s a common expression throughout the English-speaking world.

The expression refers to a standard cup of black coffee or specialized coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. If you walk into a coffee shop and order a “cup of Joe,” most baristas or waiters will assume you’re referring to a cup of black coffee.

Cup of Joe Example Usage

“Man, I feel rough this morning, I need a cup of Joe to wake me up and start the day, or I’ll have to go back to bed.”

“Life isn’t worth living if I don’t get my cup of Joe in the morning. I’m useless without my caffeine fix.”

“Do you want to come to the Starbucks for a cup of Joe? It’s on me.”

“Liz, please could you get me a cup of Joe? I need to wake up before my big meeting.”

“More than 60% of Americans start their day with a cup of Joe.”

Cup of Joe Origin

The origin of the phrase “cup of Joe” goes back to 1913. The appointment of Josephus Daniels as secretary of the Navy by then-President Woodrow Wilson saw Daniels use the term in one of his general orders.

General Order 99, issued on June 1, 1914, has Daniels issue a declaration prohibiting the use and storage of alcohol on navy vessels. As of this date, the strongest beverage allowed on the ships is coffee and nothing else.

Sailors would frequently drink from morning to night on board the ships (that’s the origin of being as drunk as a sailor). So, with their beloved alcohol out of the way, the sailors would call their coffee “Acup of Joe” about Joe Daniels and his General Order 99.

Order 99 came into effect in 1914, and it wasn’t long before the entire armed forces adopted this policy, banning alcohol from storage and use on base and on the job.

While this origin story sounds plausible, some language experts state another source of the phrase. One theory suggests that “Joe” is a short version of “jamoke” and “java.”

Phrases Similar to Cup of Joe

  • Coffee break.
  • Coffee time.
  • Cup of coffee.

Phrases Opposite to Cup of Joe

  • Mug of tea.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Cup of Joe.
  • Cuppa Joe.

Ways People May Say Cup of Joe Incorrectly

There is a recent trend online using “cup of Joe” as a caption to an image of a coffee cup with president Joe Biden inside the mug. While this is a quirky play on words and a popular meme at the moment, it’s not the correct use of the term, and it will likely fall away after the end of the Biden presidency.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Cup of Joe

You can use “cup of Joe” when referring to a cup of coffee. You could use it to describe making a cup at home or visiting the local coffee shop for your caffeine fix. It’s a common phrase, and people of all ages will understand what you’re talking about. Typically, the term refers more to black coffee than variations like cappuccinos and lattes, but you can use the phrase to describe any coffee-based drink.

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