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。
Hi peeps, back for more?
In this blog entry, we are going to take a look at “Category 2.” Today’s list will feature a different theme from the last entry. Last time, we took a look at expressions with unique or original meanings. This time, we will be focusing on slang expressions that have “common” definitions.
What do I mean?
Well, perhaps you know slang ways to say “great” or “excellent,” such as “way,” “rad,” “awesome,” “hella,” “totally,” “tight,” “sick,” “dope” or “cool.” Sure, these are still used and many remain quite popular. In fact, some of these words are words that are perhaps “timeless,” a key aspect that will be discussed in the next blog entry by me.
But the list I’m showing you are expressions that have, for the time being, become widely known and used throughout today’s youth. These words are words like “amazeballs,” “totes,” “tope” or “awesomity,” and may continue to exist in the future. If that doesn’t happen, they may phase out and/or be replaced someday.
I’d always felt that the more simple or common an expression is, the more likely there will be a large number of ways to say it. So if you love language and culture, “keep your ears open*1” for next new popular word that means “good.”
If you’re ready, let’s begin with the list!
“What’s trending?”(What’s currently popular these days?) — This is a modern way to talk about popular things. “Trend” can also be used as an adjective or verb, also with this same sort of meaning.
- The Winter Olympics is really trending now.
“Gotta bounce.” — said when you want to announce that you’re leaving. More updated than “Gotta jet.” or simply “I gotta go.”
- Well, I don’t want to be late for school. Gotta bounce.
“Hello?” or “Wake up!” — Sometimes these two expressions are even used together for more emphasis. This is used to get someone’s attention or direct their attention to something in particular.
- Uh, we can’t go out tonight. Hello? Wake up, guys! We gotta study for the test tomorrow.
Swag — new stuff, gear.
- Hey, I just got some fine swag to make myself look cool for the party this weekend.
Emo — a word that means being a “drama queen.” It is often used to describe a female who is dramatic in behavior, based on some of the following: her attitude, personality, mood or fashion style. Often used with “all” as in “all emo.” An older expression would be a word like “diva.”
- She’s going all emo with those black clothes, make-up and dark attitude.
Amazeballs / Tope / Awesomity — various words that mean “great,” “awesome” or “amazing.” In particular, “tope” is a combination of “tight” and “dope.”
- That indie film was tope !
Chillax — a word that is a combination of “chill” and “relax.” It emphasizes the meaning of “relax.”
- She’s gonna to forgive you for spilling soda on her dress by tomorrow, so just chillax, dude.
Preggers — a word that means “pregnant.” This is more common these days than “knocked up.”
- Oh no! My favorite teacher has become preggers and she’s going to leave our school later this year!
Poser — a person who tries but fails to belong into a social group. Comes from “pose” + “loser.” Usually used to label people who have failed (and implying that they are uncool). Replaces “loser” or “wannabe.”
- Can you believe that guy thought he could hang out with us? He’s a total poser.
Totes — a word that is short for “totally.” It can mean “completely” when used as an adverb. It can also be used to agree with someone. Notice that it can be used like an adverb as in “I totes want to go.”
A: I wanna grab some grub*2. Sandy’s is the best place to eat at this hour.
B: Totes! And I’m totes starving too!
“Props.” — comes from “proper respect.” This is used to offer respect, especially when something has just been accomplished. We used to say “Respect.” as a one-word sentence, but saying “Props.” is perhaps more common now.
- Wow, nicely done! Props.
So yesterday — a saying that means “something is over.” Sometimes it can be used to say “something is out-of-date” or “all in the past*3.” This is a newer version of the expression “ancient history*4.”
- My relationship with him is so yesterday. I haven’t even spoken to him in months!
Weaksauce — weak, lame.
- That band was totally weaksauce. I’m never going to see them again.
Ews — Like the “heebie-jeebies”, the “creeps”, and the “willies*5,” you do not want the ews. It’s what you say when you talk about some kind of “creepy,” or “mysterious” feeling.
- The guy just never washes his hands. It gives me the ews.
“Whatev.” or “Whatevs.” — the most modern form of the expression of “Whatever,” which generally means “I don’t really care about it, regardless of what you think.” Before evolving (or should I say “degenerating”) to this shortened form, it had some other versions like “Whateva.” or “Whatevers.”
A: I’m sure there is some way we can work this problem out.
“Sup?” — “What’s up?” has had many makeovers, like “WAZzup” or “wazZUP” (with stress on either side) or with more of an ‘s’ sound like in “Wassup.” Saying “Sup?” with perhaps a slight nod might be especially common. “What up?” is another popular variant.
Peeps — This word, which means “guys” or “friends,” was once phrased as “people” or “peoples.” Out of all of these words, “peeps” is much more “in the spotlight*6” these days.
- Sup, peeps !?
Nub — beginner. This is often used in describing video gamers or just anyone who is new or unknowledgeable. First, it started with “newbie,” then “noob,” now “nub.” The first word is not very cool to say anymore. However, “newbie” is the only word out of the three that is not used in a slightly rude sense. Referring to oneself as a “newbie” or “noob” can be a good way to show modesty. However, “noob” and “nub” can also be used to insult or label others.
- Sorry, but I’m a total noob to this game. (Used to show humility.)
- Hey, take a look at how that freshman nub is dressed to the party. (Spoken in reference to a first-year university student, for example.)
Skillz — to have a range of talents. This word slightly emphasizes that your abilities come naturally. However, it can also be used when talking about skills acquired through diligence. (It started with “I have skills,” then “I’ve got skills” and now “I’ve got skillz.”) “Skillz, man!” is a common expression used between males.
A: Have you ever danced even once in your lifetime?
B: Don’t worry, I’ve got skillz !
Again, thanks for reading! I hope reading this list will give you the skillz to speak today’s “street lingo*7” and will help you to totes get props from peeps in America. If these words seem hard to you, don’t go all emo and just chillax!
As for next time: As hinted in the beginning of this entry, the next theme, “Category 3,” will be about “timeless,” but still common expressions. Hope to see you then!
Idioms/Other Expressions used in this blog (Note: the following expressions are generally older slang.)
*1 keep your ears open — an idiom that means “be vigilant in listening for certain kinds of information.”
*2 grub — another word for “food.”
*3 all in the past — an idiom that is used when talking about something that has ended a long time ago.
*4 ancient history — slang for “a long time ago.”
*5 heebie-jeebies /creeps /willies — various words that mean “a strange, mysterious feeling.”
*6 in the spotlight — an idiom that means “featured” or “noticeable/noticed.”
*7 street lingo — another way to refer to “slang.”
【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』（旺文社）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。
Hi, this is Jason here. If you’re joining us in this blog series about youth expressions, you’re totally hardcore! I’ll be sharing expressions (mainly slang) that are used and created by Americans (aged 12-25).
I’m going to show you what’s currently happening in America in order to keep you updated, help you see its relevance, and lastly, make you a better and informed English user.
To this end, let me introduce today’s entry, along with a preview of the next two entries.
These entries will be about slang with original meanings, like frenemy or bromance. Or updated expressions, such as “What’s trending?” which is a more modern version of the slightly older expression, “What’s cool these days?” or “What’s happening?” Lastly, this will be followed by a list of oldies but goodies, meaning a list of slang that have stood the test of time, such as dude, bro, psyched, legit, or rad.
Here are three categories:
Category 1: New/Original Expressions — This list contains expressions invented by young people, who create them as they see changes in American society.
Category 2: Updated Expressions — This list will be about newer forms of older slang or dictionary words. Since there is already an existing way to communicate these ideas, these words are the most vulnerable to change. They may evolve again very soon. Or they may disappear, with the older version returning to popular use.
Category 3: Old but Still Common Expressions — This list will also be about expressions made by youths for youths, but, with one difference: these were made in the past by people who are now older. Because these are expressions which have survived, they are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, since the people from past generations are still teaching them to today’s kids.
Frenemy — a person who is a friend and an enemy. It is used to describe a relationship that has both a friend and enemy component in it. Sometimes it is used to describe a person who pretends to be a friend but is secretly planning to become the enemy in the future. Also, it is often used when the nature of the relationship requires both cooperation and competition. Loosely speaking, it might be similar to the word “rival.” However, the dictionary meaning of “rival” neither means “friend” nor “enemy” exactly. A frenemy relationship is often thought of as a complicated, love-hate relationship.
- Whoa, she’s so much better than me at everything! I can totally see ourselves becoming frenemies.
- You know what? I think your friend Jessica is really a frenemy in disguise. You should watch out.
Bromance — two male bros who are deeply bonded; best friends who are male. In past American culture, it was considered less appropriate for some men to share their emotions with other men. But recently, society has been encouraging men to be more open about their emotions.
- Wow, those guys have a true bromance. I wish I could talk about my feelings with my bros.
Brangelina — It was the media that originally combined the names of famous couples into a one-word name. (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would be a modern example). But now teenagers and young adults are doing it often! They name-mesh couples that they know. Usually, this is done in a creative, fun way.
- “Evan + Bay = Ebay.” Or “Trent + Elaine = Traine.” Or “Brandon + Linda= Blinda.”
Nerd/Geek — two words that now have good meanings (especially in the last 2-5 years)! Referring to yourself or others as a nerd or a geek now has a positive connotation. There’s nothing else in dictionary like it! About 10 years ago, in the fight against bullying, parents and teachers tried to popularize words like “Einstein” or “Brainiac” to describe children who were nerdy. Thanks to the likes of people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg, having a love for things such as computers or books is “cool.” American kids decided, for themselves, to change the meaning into a good meaning, showing us that sometimes adults may not be able to force kids to use words that they chose for them. “Brainiac” was only popular for a short time, and it has been already phased out and replaced by this updated meaning of “nerd.”
A: Sorry, I’m a bit of a geek. I’m into nerdy things.
B: No, I think you’re totally cool for loving those things.
Metrosexual (coming from “metropolitan” and “heterosexual”) — a man with a strong sense of urban style (mainly fashion and image). Since words like chic, voguish, elegant are commonly associated with women, this is a good adjective for describing men or things associated with men’s style. Basically, this reflects upon changing attitudes towards masculinity. In its early use, it was used to describe David Beckham, Brad Pitt and Ryan Seacrest.
- I think I aspire to be more of a metrosexual. I have a lot of ideas about men’s style.
Tween — a preteen who is prematurely interested in and/or already doing teenage-type things. It is also used as a marketing demographic of ages 8-12. This use is slightly different in context from the original dictionary meaning, implying that tweens are already doing things that teenagers are often doing.
- I can’t believe what those tweens are wearing! (In reference to tweens wearing teenage clothes)
“Meh.” — a reaction that shows indifference or apathy. While this might seem a lot like saying “I don’t care” or “I’m neutral on this,” this usage is far more specifically used by those who are feeling empty on emotion.
A: Want to get some dinner?
“Jealous much?” (comes from “Are you jealous?”) — an expression used to try to get someone to become more jealous. In a way, it’s more like saying “You should be jealous!” Some other incarnations are “You jealous?” or “U Jelly?” (spelled with a capital “U” and “J”)
- Look at my new car! Jealous much?
BFF — a somewhat sarcastic spin on the meaning of “friendship,” especially high-school friendships, which are known to be anything but ever-lasting (at least in American culture). It stands for “best friends forever.” This expression is ironically developed in an era when the nature of modern friendships has become more instant, fast-paced, and short-lived than ever before. Long-term or true friends do not generally use this phrase to describe their friendship unless they say something specific about the length or quality of their friendship, like “We’ve been bffs since we were in kindergarten.”
A: We totally became bffs last night.
B: What? Suddenly, you’ve become bffs?
- Meet my new bff, Shauna. She moved here last week.
Recessionista — a girl on a budget who is good at finding deals on stylish items or knows how to look fashionable using cheap items. (This is quite different from “frugal” or “smart-shopper” because it indicates that Americans don’t want a loss in their standard of living. Even if they don’t have money, they won’t want to give up on luxuries like fashion.)
A: Wow, her clothes are great! Did she lose her job?
B: Yeah, she did, but she’s quite the recessionista!
Photobomb — a verb that means: to get into the background of another person’s photo without his/her knowledge. Due to the nearly unlimited number of shots one can get from cell phones and digital cameras, some victims might find this act humorous, as it does not really hurt them in any real way. But it depends on how the photobomber does it. I wouldn’t recommend any of our readers to try it though!
- Let’s photobomb their shot. They will get a laugh later!
“Epic fail!” — an expression said when someone totally fails in a case where success should have been rather easy to attain. Or it is used when someone has completely failed in a very ironic way.
- Hey, that boy just misspelled “smart” during the spelling contest! Epic fail! (The point of participating in a spelling contest is to show that you are smart, hence the irony.)
Bridezilla — a bride who is obsessed about the details of her wedding (“bride” + “Godzilla”). This phenomenon may reflect upon the high amount of happily-ever-after stories that American girls hear as they grow up. Later in life, many women feel they have a right to have the “perfect wedding.”
- Uh-oh, Bridezilla is coming! Don’t tell her that the band for her wedding has cancelled. She’ll go crazy!
Viral — used to describe something that is quickly becoming wide-spread and popular on the Internet. “Gone viral” and “viral marketing” are some of the expressions we have made with it.
- Wow, my video has gone viral already! (video = a video clip uploaded to a streaming service)
Thanks for reading! I hope this list of handpicked expressions will help you become more familiar with what’s trending in American English these days! And if nothing else, I hope the culturally-specific concepts were interesting for you. Stay tuned for Category 2, coming soon!
Idioms/Other Expressions used in this blog
・peeps — people (updated version of “guys,” “friends”)
・hardcore — serious (as in a serious learner)
・stand the test of time — to be long-lasting; to survive
・oldies but goodies — something that is good despite being old
・bros — male friends (most common expression used by American male friends these days)
・name-mesh — to combine names into one word (also known as “name-meshing”)
・happily-ever-after — the idea that one day you will find your perfect mate and then live happily forever
・Stay tuned! — an expression that means “Keep watching this TV program!” (but in this case, “Keep reading!”)
【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』（旺文社）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。