Hi, guys, buds, dudes, folks, peeps! Ever wonder about what the most common American slang words really are? Sure, slang is a great way to introduce new concepts, and with the Internet trending the most popular slang of any given year, we tend to start thinking that words like cray-cray*1, selfie*2, catfish*3 or hashtag*4 are the most popular words of the time being. Yet, one can argue that the slang words that are truly timeless are the ones that have survived over time and express very basic ideas. So here we have it, as promised, a list of time-tested phrases.
Big shot — a person with power and/or influence.
- She’s a big shot now that she’s working at our company headquarters.
Couch potato — a person who lives a sedentary lifestyle and does not do a lot of physical activity.
- Hey, you gotta stop being such a couch potato and come out with us more often!
Fruitcake — an odd or eccentric person. “Fruity” is a related adjective.
- I’m not sure if we have the time to engage in conversation with John today, ’cause he’s such a fruitcake.
High roller — a person with extravagant tastes for spending money. (This is also used to describe those who gamble with large amounts of money.)
- I’m not sure if I can get into that luxury casino again, ’cause they know I’m not a high roller.
Third wheel / Fifth wheel — an unnecessary or unwanted person in some social situation. (This expression refers to the notion that a third wheel on a bicycle or a fifth on a car would be one wheel too many.)
- I’m sorry, but I don’t think I should join you two on your date, coz* I’d just be a third wheel.
Scaredy-cat — a cowardly person.
- Stop being such a scaredy-cat and climb into this cave with me.
Fall guy — a scapegoat.
A: Oh no, you broke the dishes!
B: Don’t worry, our little brother can be our fall guy.
Class clown — a funny person in a school classroom.
- Quit being such a class clown, Andy. We need to finish our test now.
hang / hang out — to spend leisure time.
A: Let’s hang out at your place, Sherri.
B: Naw*, let’s just hang here at school.
Bite / Blow — to be of bad or low quality in some way. (Note that “bite” is often used in present situations, in the simple present tense.)
- This movie really bites! Let’s jam. (Jam — to leave)
Burn — to cheat.
- Ugh, I was burned at the flea market today. I expected $20 in change but only received $10.
Chill / Chill out — to relax. (“Chill out” is generally used for suggesting that others should relax, while “chill” can be used to refer to yourself and others.)
- If I can chill about it, you should chill out, too.
Pan out — to lead to a good result as planned or as hoped. (Note that this expression generally emphasizes a desire to get any good result, rather than a specific one.)
- So far, the customer has requested a lot of my time, but still hasn’t bought anything yet, so I hope this will pan out eventually.
(Basically, a person who says this is expressing hope for any positive outcome with the customer.)
Crash — to fall asleep (in your own bed). (It can also be used to express staying somewhere for a short time.)
- Hey, it’s me, Sam calling. It’s late and I lost my house keys, so, uh, can I crash at your place tonight?
Sweet — good, nice. (Some other words that are still used are “rad” or “radical.”)
A: That’s a sweet car, dude!
B: Yours is pretty rad, too.
Mad — very, extremely.
- He was mad hungry, so he ate my share, too. Can you believe it?
Buff — strong. (This word comes from the buffing, or polishing leather from a bison. Bison are strong, and so is the leather.)
- I’m trying to get buff, so I’m going to the gym every day.
Ew — used to express disgust. (Another similar word is “yuck.” They can even be used together for more emphasis.)
- Ew, yuck, I can’t believe you ate that raw!
Bummer — used to express disappointment.
- Bummer, you can’t come to the party?
“For real?” — a slang way to ask if something is really true or not. (One variation is to add a “z” as in “for realz?”)
- You’re giving me your old bike? For real? Thanks, you’re the greatest!
Naw — a casual way to say “no.”
- Naw, I’m not gonna do that.
Like — a pause word often used in storytelling.
- He was like, jumping and screaming, and I was like, just trying to chase the mouse away.
As if — a response that means “as if that were true.”
- I don’t think so, buddy! As if! I would never be seen shopping at that place!
Coz — a shortened spelling of “cause” and is pronounced slightly differently, starting with a /kʌ/ sound, as in “cousin.” (Other similar words that have an alternative, casual pronunciation are “imma” (= I’m), “bra” (= bro), and “ta” (= to).)
- Imma gonna do it, bra, coz it’s the right thing ta do.
❖Slang in phrases
do an all-nighter — to do work or study that extends throughout the night.
- He did an all-nighter and finished his essay barely in time.
have a cat nap — to have a short nap, often in the afternoon.
- I’m sorry I missed your e-mail; I was just having a cat nap.
take a gander — to have a look. (Another similar expression is “take [OR have] a look-see.”)
- Come take a gander at what they are selling today.
quit cold turkey — to immediately stop a habit. (Note that “cold turkey” is used like an adverb. Because of its meaning, “cold turkey” is often used with words like “go,” “stop,” and “quit.”)
- Following his doctor’s advice, he decided to give up coffee cold turkey.
take the cake — to get the reward. (This reward can literally be a cake, or some other prize, like money.)
- He won the match and took home the cake!
give … the third degree — to interrogate someone, often by asking a series of tough or hard-to-avoid questions.
- My mother really gave me the third degree after I came home late.
do a solid — to do a difficult, concrete favor for someone.
- Come on! Do me a solid, and you know I’ll return the favor someday.
ride the gravy train — to get in a situation where a person can easily get money over time, such as in an easy-to-get salary. (Note that this is a combination of slang and idiom, as “gravy” is a slang word for “money.”)
- My cousin inherited a lot of houses, and now she’s riding the gravy train through rent money.
Well, peeps, that’s the end of the 3-part theme I introduced to you: thanks for reading! But, it’s not really over yet! I’ll be back to follow up with some more themes soon. And be sure to remember that many of these expressions and more are also entries in the O-LEX English/Japanese Dictionary(2nd Edition). Take care and see you soon!
Other Slang Expressions used in this blog (2014 slang)
*1 cray-cray ─ extremely crazy, to the point of making others uncomfortable.
*2 selfie ─ self-portrait taken using a smartphone and sharing it online.
*3 catfish ─ a fake person on the Internet. (This is often done by someone who creates a fake online profile to trick or deceive others. The real person behind the false persona can also be referred to as a catfish. This can also be used as a verb, as in “You (= the victim) have got catfished!”)
*4 hashtag ─ the pronunciation of the symbol “#.” (When used in speech, people often say “hashtag,” followed by the category or label it gets. Ex. He got into a fight with a younger person yet lost, hashtag fail!)
【プロフィール】Jason Andrew Chau（ジェイソン・アンドリュー・チャウ）
アメリカのテキサス出身。ＵＣバークレーで心理学と人類学を学ぶ。これまで，日本の英語教育に10年以上かかわる中，「仕事の英語 緊急対策マニュアル 電話・メール編」「英会話リズムメソッド」「中学 定期テストの対策ワーク」等英文校正に携わる。また，レベルにあった英会話教授法も熟知している。