11 American Slang words explained

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.


John Hancock

Example: “Sign your John Hancock here.”

Definition: Signature

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.”

Definition: Barely

Explanation: This phrase means ‘just barely’ or ‘narrowly’. It comes from the Book of Job in the Bible.


Shotgun (car)

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.


A minute

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!


Top 5 Best Places to Eat Around Campus


  1. Panda Express

Panda Express is one of the most popular places for students to eat on campus. Its convenient location (1st floor of the MU) and reputation for serving delicious Chinese food always attracts a large crowd around lunch and dinner time. Panda’s large menu includes tasty  entrees like orange chicken, eggplant tofu and honey walnut shrimp.  It also has cream cheese ragoons, veggie spring rolls, chow mein and more.

Panda Express is open from 10 am to 8 pm Monday through Friday with reduced hours during the weekend.


  1. Jeff’s Pizza Shop

Jeff’s Pizza Shop is a favorite among a lot of Iowa State students and scholars alike. Located just on the other side of Lincoln Way (slightly west of the MU), Jeff’s is close enough to walk to. But, if you’d like to stay home, you can also order your pizza to be delivered. Jeff’s has a variety of delicious homemade pizzas, sandwiches, salads and starters. It also has daily pizza deals and extra discounts for special events, like important Iowa State football games.


  1. Courtyard Café

The Courtyard Café is a small café located in the west wing of Lagomarcino Hall on the north side of campus. The café specializes in serving delicious and healthy grab-and-go  sandwiches, soups and salads. It also offers smaller snack items like baked pastries, vegetables and fresh fruit. You can find the daily menu here.


  1. The Fighting Burrito

The Fighting Burrito is a small restaurant, located on Welsh Avenue, that uses fresh ingredients to create a variety of tasty burritos and tacos. Its specialty menu includes unique burritos like the Jack Trice Burrito, which is a burrito with queso, ancho chicken, chipotle sour cream, spicy corn salsa and more. The menu also has mini burritos, chips and desserts.

The best part about Fighting Burrito? It delivers! That means that you can enjoy a delicious Jack Trice Burrito online today without ever having to leave your dorm/apartment building.


  1. Hawthorn

Hawthorn is an Iowa State-owned restaurant located at the center of Frederiksen Court. It is now one of the only places on campus where students can still buy express meals (also known as meal bundles). Hawthorn serves grilled and deep-fried entrees, smaller sides, delicious baked treats, Godfather’s pizza and more. The daily menu includes vegetarian, vegan and halal options. You can order food for pick-up from Hawthorn on the GET app.


       BONUS: Super Dog

Even though it is only open at night, the Super Dog food truck is one of the most popular food trucks in Ames. In fact, eating a Super Dog after a night out in Ames has become an unofficial Iowa State tradition.

The Super Dog food truck serves a couple of different foods, like grilled cheese and plain hotdogs, but the best item on its menu is the Super Dog. The Super Dog is a beef hotdog topped with pineapple sauce, garlic cilantro sauce, potato chips, bacon, Monterrey Jack cheese and lots more. It may sound unusual, but the weird combination actually tastes  pretty good.

The Super Dog food truck can be found on Welsh Avenue every Monday and Tuesday from 11 pm to 2 am and every Wednesday through Saturday from 9 pm to 2 am.


Are you as hungry as I am after reading that list? Which food place are you excited to try? Comment below and let us know!


A Quick Guide to ISU Football

College football is a big part of the American culture. Lots of people in the United States plan their weekend schedules around important football games, like the Cy-Hawk game scheduled for this Saturday (September 9, 2017). During every home football game, ISU students, alumni and fans gather at Jack Trice Stadium to watch the game and cheer for the Cyclones.


Quick rules:

The rules of American football can be complex. But, like soccer, the overall goal of the game is to get more points than the opposing team. There are a couple of different ways for a football team to earn points but the most common is by scoring touchdowns.

To get a touchdown, the offensive team (the team with the ball) has to move the football, or ‘pig-skin’, past the opposing team into the end zone. The defensive team’s goal is to keep the offensive team away from the end zone long enough for them to get the ball. At the end of the 4th quarter of the game whichever team has the most point’s wins.

Read this article to learn some of the American football terms and watch this video for a more complete explanation of how football players can score points.


Cy-Hawk Rivalry

The rivalry between the Iowa State University Cyclones and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, better known as the Cy-Hawk rivalry, started at a football game between the two schools in 1894. Since then it has grown from a small competition between two schools into an all-state rivalry.

In fact, the state of Iowa is often referred to as “a house divided,” which references the Abraham Lincoln quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Iowa is a house divided because half of the state residents enthusiastically support Iowa State University while the other half supports the University of Iowa.

The rivalry between the two universities is especially popular during the football and basketball games. You may have noticed that right now a lot of businesses in Ames have put up signs supporting the Iowa State Cyclones and that even the Cy-Ride busses say ‘Beat Iowa’.

The 2017 Cy-Hawk football game is particularly important to Iowa State fans because in 2016, Iowa University ruthlessly defeated Iowa State by 39 points. The final score was 42-3. This year, new head football coach Matt Campbell has vowed to “raise the standard” on ISU football.



A tailgate party is a large social event where people gather around pick-up trucks or campers to socialize, share food, play games and cheer on their favorite sports team. Tailgating is also arguably one of the best parts of attending a college football game.

During home football games, hundreds of people travel to Ames just to tailgate in front of Jack Trice Stadium. Usually, the entire parking lot in front of the stadium and all surrounding fields are full of cyclone fans wearing Iowa State colors (carinal and gold).

Here are some of the things that you’ll likely see while walking around a tailgate party:

  • People playing outdoor games like Corn Hole 
  • Lots of people wearing Cyclone colors (cardinal and gold)
  • Lots of different tables set up with food
  • People grilling hot dogs and burgers
  • People with large RV’s camping outside the football stadium


Do you have any questions about Iowa State Football? Are you excited to go tailgating? Comment below and let us know!

Getting Along with your Roommate: Do’s and Don’ts

Adjusting to living with someone other than your family for the first (or second) time can be a hard. Even if your roommate is from the same country as you, there is no guarantee that you will have the same habits, school schedules or even become friends. That does not mean that you cannot be great roommates! Check out the tips below to learn some of the do’s and don’ts of being a good roommate.


Do: Agree on some house rules

One of the best ways to stop a conflict before it happens is to create a roommate agreement. A roommate agreement is a set of rules for the shared spaces that is agreed upon by all roommates. The roommate agreement can cover a bunch of different topics like cleaning, the temperature of the room, quiet hours and more.

If you’re living in a dorm on campus than you may have already filled out a roommate agreement. If not, you should set up a time to discuss the rules of the room or apartment with your roommate as soon as possible. You can come up with your own set of rules by following this roommate agreement template from Her Campus.


Don’t: Don’t leave your area a mess

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No one likes to come home to a messy room/apartment—especially when it’s not their mess. Keep your roommates in a good mood by regularly cleaning up after yourself. That means doing the dishes, taking out the trash and doing your laundry before the basket overfills. It also means helping to do apartment chores like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming and dusting. If you’d like to, you can create a cleaning schedule to make sure that everyone does their part to keep your room or apartment clean.


Do: Address any issues in person as soon as they happen

There are bound to be things that your roommate does that bother you. These can be smaller things, like your roommate not taking out the trash, or bigger issues, like your roommate’s boyfriend or girlfriend always staying the night. Regardless of the issue, if it is something that you decide you cannot live with than you should let your roommate know as soon as possible.

Face-to-face confrontation can be awkward and uncomfortable even if you’re best friends with your roommate. However, it’s better to discuss any issues in person rather than over text. In person, you will be able to talk freely with your roommate about the issue, how it makes you feel and come up with possible solutions together. A lot of times, your roommate may not have even realized that what they were doing bothered you!

If you want to know how to confront your roommate without staring a war, check out this article!


Don’t: Leave passive aggressive notes

If your roommate is doing something that is bothering you, let them know nicely in person. Don’t leave them a angry note or send them a mean text message– especially if you’re still angry. Take some time to calm down, think of ways to solve the issue, and then address it calmly in person.

If you would like to see some examples of passive aggressive roommate notes (or would just like a laugh), click here.


Do: Let your roommate know if you’re going to have company

Save your roommate some frustration by giving them advanced notice when you’re planning on having guests over to hang out or spend the night. In fact, the sooner you can tell them the better. That way your roommate will be able to make sure that the area is clean and decide whether or not they want to socialize with you and your friends or move to a more private area.

When you do have guests over, make sure that you respect the rules about guests that you and your roommate agreed on in the roommate agreement. (If you’d like some ideas about what kinds of rules about guests you should have, check out this article.)

Don’t: Borrow things without asking


This includes laundry detergent, tooth paste, clothing, food and more. Basically, if your roommate paid for it and has not given you permission to use/eat it then don’t. If you want to borrow something from your roommate, make sure that you talk to them first and find out what things they’re O.K. with sharing and what things are off-limits. For example, you and your roommate may want to share things like bread or milk, but not fruit or ice cream. Either way, it will be better if you ask first.

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Being a great roommate is about more than cleaning up after yourself or giving advanced notice when you plan on inviting guests over. It’s also about respecting your roommate and being willing to compromise whenever you don’t get along.

Do you have any do’s or don’ts that you like to add to our list? Comment them below!

Getting Involved on Campus

Student life at an American university is about more than getting good grades and attending classes. It’s also about experiencing new things and making new friends. Even a big university like Iowa State can feel small and welcoming once you’ve gotten to know more people. Getting involved on campus is a great way to get to know Iowa State, build a professional network and have fun.

Here are some of the best ways to get involved on campus.


Join a club

…or two, or three! On-campus clubs and organizations are a great way to make new friends and try exciting new things. (Plus being a part of clubs and organizations in college looks great on resumes.)

With over 300 different clubs, Iowa State is bound to have something you’ll enjoy. The different types of clubs and organizations range from intramural sports teams, like the Coed Carnadoes (soccer) Club, to performance arts, like the Iowa State Improv Comedy Club, and even to science based clubs like the Cyclone Space Mining Club. You can a complete list of all sanctioned ISU clubs and organizations on the student organizations webpage.

Generally, new students are advised to join three clubs; one related to your major, one to keep you in shape and one just for fun. One of the best ways to learn more about the clubs and student organizations Iowa State offers is to attend ClubFest!

ClubFest is a popular event held every semester that showcases some of the clubs and organizations at Iowa State. At ClubFest, students will be able to walk around to different club exhibitions, see club demonstrations and ask members questions about their clubs. (Some clubs even give away free things at ClubFest!)

The fall 2017 ClubFest will be held on Wednesday, September 6 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM on central campus (on the Curtiss lawn).


Attend an event

You won’t have to search very hard to find a fun and interesting events on campus. Many organizations and offices at Iowa State work hard to ensure that there’s something for every student to enjoy. Throughout the semester, you will be able to attend stimulating lectures, party at concerts and watch awesome new movies every week.

Student Union Board

The Student Union Board (SUB) is a student run organization that regularly plans and runs fun events on campus including Cyclone Cinema and shows at the Maintenance shop.

Cyclone Cinema https://www.sub.iastate.edu/cyclone-cinema/movie-lineup/  is a free weekly showing of a new big screen movie in Carver 101. You can bring your own snacks to the theatre or can buy some from SUB in the lobby outside of Carver 101. This semester you will be able to enjoy popular movies like Wonder Woman, Spiderman: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3, Stephen King’s It and more.

The Maintenance Shop, or ‘M-Shop’, is an all-ages nightclub located on the first floor in the Memorial Union. The M shop is well known for frequently hosting a variety of different concerts and shows, like the student improve comedy troupe known as Grandma Mojos moonshine revival. You can find a complete list of all M-Shop events here.

Lectures Program Office

Iowa State has an amazing Lectures Program Office that works hard to entice speakers and celebrities from various backgrounds and professions to speak at Iowa State. (If you don’t believe me, check out this article Ethos Magazine wrote about programs director Pat Miller!) These lectures are usually free and open to ISU students and the public.

The list of upcoming speakers includes NASA scientist Essam Heggy, mental health advocate and comedian Sara Benincasa, and personal finance expert Peter Dunn. To view a complete list of upcoming lectures, click here.

ISSO Events

The ISSO office also plans and hosts a large number of events for international students throughout the year. This includes day trips to Des Moines, picnics in the park and even occasional overnight trips. There are also some weekly events designed to help international students adjust well to life in America, like English Together. You can learn more about ISSO’s programs and upcoming events on our website, or you can follow us on social media to see regular postings about our events.


Talk to the people around you

You don’t always need to join a club or attend a fun event to meet new people. In fact, it can be as easy as chatting with the person sitting next to you in class or leaving the door of your dorm room open and greeting the people who walk by. Almost all students want to make new friends, regardless of how long they’ve been at Iowa State. Even seniors want to meet new people. These small, somewhat uncomfortable actions can go a long way to show the people around you that you’re a friendly person.


Getting involved on campus is one of the best ways to not only learn new skills and make new friends but also adjust to living in a new country. The more involved you are on campus, the more Iowa State will start to feel like home.

How are you getting involved on campus? Comment below or let us know on our social media pages!

Top 5 Things to do at the Iowa State Fair

August is one of the best months of the year for Iowans, and not just because of tax-free weekend and back-to-school shopping. August is the best because the Iowa State Fair happens in August!

This world-famous fair, which starts on August 10 and ends on August 20, is one of the biggest events in Iowa. Over 1 Million people visit the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines every year. It’s so big, popular and awesome that is it the only fair to make it into the New York Times best-selling travel book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and for good reasons.lg-56f557a2816f773520aa9


The Butter Cow

If someone tells you that they’re going to go see the Butter Cow, they’re not talking about a cow whose milk is used to make butter. The Butter Cow is a realistic cow sculpture made out of butter. This odd sculpture first appeared at the Iowa State Fair in 1911 and has become an Iowa State Fair tradition ever since.lg-56f553a76b4f135d33b9c

The Butter Cow isn’t the only sculpture made out of butter either. Every year there is an accompanying sculpture that usually has something to do with pop culture. The accompanying sculpture can be anything from a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek (2016) to a version of Leonardo DaVinci’s “The Last Supper” (1999). The 2017 Butter Cow will have two accompanying sculptures, one of the author of “The Little House on the Prairie” and a replica of the Solheim Cup golf trophy.lg-589de1630e01872276ee7



If nothing else convinces you to experience the Iowa State Fair, the food will. The Iowa State Fair has every kind of food imaginable, but it seems to specialize in deep fried food on-a-stick. You can even try deep-fried butter on a stick!lg-56f5581c2c13f948b3379

The fair also has healthier options, like a green been or potato bowl or a caprese salad on-a-stick, and there are options that cater to severe allergies or diseases like Celiac disease.

Some of my fair favorites includes:

  • A turkey leg on-a-stick
  • Deep-fried cheese curds
  • Loaded tators on-a-stick
  • JR’s donuts
  • Fresh lemonade
  • And funnel cake

You can be a pro at navigating the delicious fair food by downloading the fair’s food-finder app.

For a complete list of food at the Iowa State Fair, click here.


Thrill Park

If you love thrill rides and adventure, look no further than the Iowa State Fair. Every year, the fair is home to hundreds of different rides all ages can enjoy. They have calmer rides, like Ye Old Mill or Bumper boats and more extreme rides like the Hurricane or the Spaceroller.

The Iowa State Fair has three separate locations for their thrill rides. The largest section of rides, named Thrill Ville, is located in the main area of the fair between the Grandstand stage and Ye Old Mill. If you’re looking for calmer rides for children, you can find the Thrill Town east of Gate 10. If you feel a need for speed and adventure, you can find the most extreme, hair-raising rides in the Thrill Zone, which is located in the southwest corner of the fair west of the 4-H Building.

You can skip the lines and purchase wristband tickets for the rides online!


In addition to great food, butter cows and amusement rides, the Iowa State Fair also showcases musicians and performers on their five stages.

The most popular concerts at the Iowa State fair are held on the Grandstand stage. This year, famous bands and singers like Flo Rida, Paramore and Little Big Town, will perform at the Grandstand. If you’re interested seeing something other than a musical concert at the Grandstand, the Grandstand will also showcase the Grand Outlaw National Tractor and Truck Pull on August 16 at 2 PM. You can find a complete list of performers and buy tickets here.lg-56f557a2816f773520aa9

Out of the five public stages at the Iowa State Fair, four of them are free. The free stages have many different types of shows. For example, in addition to various bands and musicians performing on the free stages, there will also be a hypnotist at the Anne and Bill Riley Stage on August 13th through the 17th.  You can find a list of all concerts on the free stages here.

Many restaurants and bars will also have live entertainment inside their buildings, making it almost impossible for you to miss out on good music.


People Watching

One of the best things about the Iowa State Fair is that you don’t have to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl or enjoy a concert at the Grand slam to have a great time. You can be entertained for hours just by watching the thousands of people around you.

If you do decide to people watch you’ll likely see many people with Mullets, people dressed in funny outfits, various fair queens and princesses walking around and so much more.lg-56f553f7a4b7c41f43bc3


There really is something for everyone at the Iowa State Fair. There are competitions to see who grew the largest pumpkin, cattle roping demonstrations, exhibits that teach fair goers about honey bees and so much more. You won’t have to look very hard to find something that you and your friends or family can enjoy together. To learn more about the Iowa State Fair, check out their websitelg-56f558e5d07f602623208

Do you have any questions about the Iowa State Fair? Comment below or post on our social media pages and let us know!

Strange Things Americans Do: Explained


strangeLet’s face it, some of the things that seem normal to Americans are actually really odd. We don’t use the metric system, we (generally) don’t know how to drive manual cars and we love easy (but sometimes low quality) drive-through restaurants.

While you are in the United States, there are bound to be times when American ‘norms’ confuse you and make you question why. Don’t worry! We’re here to help.

Smiling at Strangers

If you were to live in a big city, like New York, you could pass by a hundred people on the street without smiling or talking to any of them. However, in Iowa it is common for people (even strangers) to smile and greet you as they pass you in the street.


Normally, a sense of community is very important to people in the less populated parts of America. In the Midwest, being friendly and building a strong community with your neighbors is especially important. That is why people, even strangers, will smile and greet you as they pass you in the street or politely chat with you as you wait in line at a store. 

This is not something that will happen all the time. It is most common when only a few people are walking around a neighborhood. During the fall and spring semesters it is less likely to happen while walking on campus because there will be too many different people passing by.

Don’t be too shy to greet those around you. The Midwest is believed to be home to some of the friendliest people in America, after all!

National Pride

United States citizens usually have a large quantity of national pride and like to show it as much as possible. Even in a small state, like Iowa, you will see many businesses raise the American flag outside of their building year round and lots of people driving cars with “God bless America” bumper stickers. To international people, this may seem like an unusual expression of national pride, but in America it is widely accepted and even expected.


People in America have grown up believing that the United States in one of the best countries in the world and that it should always be highly respected. For that reason, many Americans show their support as often as they can. 

This national pride shows itself in many different ways. For example, during every sports game, graduation or other important ceremony the audience will stand and listen to the National Anthem  play. Another popular way people show their love for the United States is by saluting and thanking anyone serving in the army when they see them.

Though the amount of flags and national pride may seem a little odd at first, after a couple of weeks in the US you’ll hardly notice them.

Shopping Tax

There is (almost) no greater shopping related frustration than adding up the cost of your items while shopping and then getting to the register and realizing you have to pay more than you expected to. Especially if you’re from a country where the tax is always added into the advertised price! However, in the US and Canada (and maybe a few other places Google doesn’t know), the tax on products is always added at the register.


Unlike most countries, the United States does not have a general VAT tax. Instead, each category of item has a different tax amount and every state has different laws determining how much that tax should be. For example, in Iowa, the state sales tax is 6% while in Tennessee its 9.75%.

 On top of that, each state is divided into different counties and the counties all contain dozens of municipalities. Both the counties and the municipalities can also choose to have additional tax rates. For this reason, it is easiest for stores to add the tax at the register.

If you dislike the sales tax than you’re in luck! Iowa removes the tax on most clothes and back-to-school supplies for one weekend every year. In 2017, the tax-free weekend will be from Friday August 4 to Saturday August 5. Enjoy!

Bathroom Privacy

You may have heard horror stories about the lack of privacy in American bathrooms. I’m sorry to have to tell you that the stories are true. Most American bathrooms have large gaps around the doors where people outside the bathroom stall can see in—even when the door is shut and locked!


I wish I knew! Even Americans hate the gaps in the doors but for some reason, almost every time a toilet stall is installed they still have wide gaps on either side of the door! The gap at the bottom is there so that custodians can easily mop the floor, but the gaps on the sides of the doors don’t serve much of a purpose.

Americans usually handle the lack of privacy in the bathroom by refusing to look at the gaps and instead look for feet at the bottom of the stall to check if a stall is available. In an American bathroom it’s best if you try to avoid making eye contact with anyone inside a bathroom stall.


Even though it is likely that you will experience moments of culture shock during your time in the United States, you are not alone. The International Students and Scholars Office at Iowa State is always happy to help answer any questions about life in the United States.

Have you experienced any strange customs or traditions in America that have confused you? Comment below or post on our social media and let us know!