In episode 2 of Amazon series called Modern love s1, the conversation goes like this:

E: Where did you go to school?
J: Harvard.
E: Oh, for God's sake, really?
J: No, just joking. I didn't go to college.
E: You know, that might actually be worse for me, cause it's like self-made, edgy.
You know? They'd love that around here.
J: Educated on the streets. Taking the pulse of the common man.

What does Joshua mean by "taking the pulse of the common man"? Can someone please explain it to me?

edit On dictionary.com, it says that this idiom means trying to determine the intentions, sentiments, or status of a person or a group. Then did Joshua refer to the interviewers who was about to judge and test him?

  • 2
    Hello, Greta, and welcome to the site. Did you google it before asking? Here users are encouraged to provide their own research. See help center.
    – fev
    Nov 9, 2022 at 11:40
  • Joshua is definitely not referring to his "examiners" here. The common man = ordinary people / the general public. Nov 9, 2022 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


When used literally, to "take someone's pulse" means to check his heart rate by feeling an artery. A doctor or nurse will commonly take someone's pulse by putting their thumb on the inside of a patient's wrist. If the person's heart is beating, the doctor should be able to feel the increase in pressure with each heartbeat. At it's most basic, this is used to check if someone is alive. If his heart isn't beating, he won't have a pulse. But beyond that, the strength and speed of a person's pulse can tell a doctor something about the person's physical condition.

So metaphorically, we say that we are "taking someone's pulse" to mean that we are evaluating him in some way. Like a political reporter may say that he is "taking the pulse of the voters", that is, trying to find out what the voters think. Or a business owner might say that he is "taking the pulse of the employees", meaning he is trying to find out what the employees are thinking, is morale good, etc.

In this case, the speaker says that he didn't go to college but got his education "on the streets", that is, in daily life, and that he "took the pulse of the common man", that is, learned what ordinary people are thinking and doing.

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