Even if you’re fluent in English you may hear some American slang words or phrases around campus that confuse you. Here is a quick list of 11 common American words and phrases you should know.
Example: “Sign your John Hancock here.”
Explanation: The term ‘John Hancock’ comes from the American Revolution. Specifically, it comes from the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. By signing the Declaration of Independence, the American founding fathers were admitting to committing treason against England.
John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, was the first in line to sign the Declaration of Independence, and, to add insult to injury, he signed his name very largely and lavishly.
By the skin of my teeth
Example: “He passed that class by the skin of his teeth.”
Explanation: This phrase means ‘just barely’ or ‘narrowly’. It comes from the Book of Job in the Bible.
Example: “I call shotgun!”
Definition: Front passenger seat
Explanation: The ‘shotgun’ refers to the front passenger seat in a car. According to Wikipedia, the expression “riding shotgun” comes from the colonial period and the American Wild West. The person who rode right next to the driver was responsible for taking care of the people inside the car (or wagon) and keeping bandits away with a gun.
Example: “It’s lit!” “I’m lit. “That party last night was lit.”
Definition: Cool, exciting, intoxicated
Explanation: ‘Lit’ is an old slang word that has recently become popular again. It can mean intoxicated, excited or cool.
Example: “I have serious FOMO right now.”
Definition: Fear of Missing Out
Explanation: FOMO is a newly added addition to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It’s commonly used to express regret about missing parties and other large events.
Example: “I’m hella excited.”
Definition: Very, A lot
Explanation: People are using this term less and less but you still might hear it on occasion. If someone says that he/she is, “hella excited” that person means that they are extremely excited.
Example: “I got all of this swag at the mall today.”
Definition: Stuff, style
Explanation: Swag is a word that was very popular in the early 2010’s. It can mean stuff, style or even that something/someone is cool.
Plead the fifth
Example: “I plead the fifth.”
Definition: Refusing to answer
Explanation: “The fifth” refers to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states, “no person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” To ‘plead the fifth’ outside of a courtroom means to refuse to answer.
Example: “I haven’t seen you in a minute.” “I’ve been waiting for a minute.”
Definition: A long time
Explanation: Ironically, in sentences above, a minute does not mean sixty seconds. It means a really long time.
A dime a dozen
Example: “That (thing) is a dime a dozen.”
Definition: Common, cheap, easily replaced
Explanation: This phrase refers to things that are very easy to get.
New York minute
Example: “I’ll have it done New York minute.”
Definition: Quickly, instant
Explanation: To do something in “a New York minute” is to do something very quickly. The phrase refers to the fast-paced lifestyle that people in big cities, like New York, tend to live.
Have you heard any other American slang words you’d like us to write about? Comment them below!