Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just up and

'Just up and' used between a subject and verb means that someone did something suddenly, without warning. It usually involves a big change in life.

-What happened?
-Well, he just up and decided he wanted a divorce.
-What was her reaction?
-She was dumbfounded.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


'Jammies' (also known as 'p.j.'s') are what kids often call their pajamas. Many other words ending in the suffix -y or -ie are also often used in childhood, such as potty (toilet), poopy (excrement), tummy (stomach), kitty (kitten or cat), doggie (dog), fishy (fish) and birdie (bird). Really, just about any word can have -y or -ie added to it, and it sounds more kid-friendly and less threatening.

-Okay, time to put your jammies on!

-Lookie! Do you see the boat?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Off the top of my head

'Off the top of my head' is used to refer to the first thing a person can think of.

-Do we need anything at the grocery?
-Not off the top of my head.

-What do you want for your birthday?
-I can't think of anything off the top of my head.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Road trip

A 'road trip' is a trip in a car often taken by young people to get to a vacation in another city, such as a trip taken during Spring Break. Sometimes the trip itself can also be the vacation. Road trips often involve squeezing as many people as possible into a car, driving as long as absolutely possible (even all night), eating at cheap restaurants and staying in cheap hotels.

-I think we should go to Daytona for Spring Break.
-Road trip! I'm in!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small-business Saturday

'Small-business Saturday' was started by small businesses in the last 10 years or so to encourage shoppers to support the small 'mom and pop' stores, instead of the giant, big-box chains. It is the day after 'Black Friday.'

-Support your local stores! Shop on Small-business Saturday!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

'Black Friday' is known as the official start to the holiday shopping season. It is the day after Thanksgiving. Many stores open very early, at midnight or 5 a.m., and have huge mark-downs on popular items.

It is called 'black' because in accounting, that means that the store has profits, as opposed to red, which would mean debt.

-I heard Toys-R-Us is having a huge sale on Black Friday! I can't wait to get my grandson a bouncy horse.
-We'd better get there early so they don't sell out! I bet it'll be packed!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November (unless that day falls in an incomplete week -- then it's on the third Thursday). It's a celebration to commemorate the first Thanksgiving, which, according to popular belief, was a meal shared between the Pilgrims and the Indians (now referred to as Native Americans) to give thanks for the harvest and the goodwill between them. That is what kids learn in school.

Now a days, it is considered to be a day of family, in which many people take time to recognize and be thankful for the blessings in their lives. The typical foods are turkey with stuffing (little pieces of bread that are cooked with onion, celery and spices), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (green beans covered with cream and mushroom sauce, topped with French fried onions) and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

On TV, in the morning there is the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, which takes place in New York, and later, various (American) football games. After such a large meal, many people fall asleep on the sofa.

-Happy Thanksgiving!
-Happy Turkey Day to you, too!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


'Putt-putt' is a chain of miniature golf courses. Many people refer to miniature golf as 'putt-putt,' in the same way that bath tissues are 'Kleenex,' cotton swabs are 'Q-tips,' and plastic bandages are 'Band-Aids.' It's a common thing to do with kids when the weather is warm.

-Hey, kids! Do you wanna go play putt-putt?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All day

'All day,' as in "taking all day," or "I don't have all day" is a way to complain when you think something is taking too much time. It is usually said when the person being complained about is not within earshot, by a person who has power in a situation, or among close friends in informal situations.


(To a friend while the salesperson in a store has stepped away) -What's taking all day?! It's just a simple return!

(To employees) -Come on, people! We don't have all day!

(To friends) -Come on, you guys! Let's go! I don't have all day!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just sayin'

"Just sayin'" is a conversation ender used by people as a way to get the last word in a conversation. As it uses 'just,' it also can be almost be seen as a sort of apology for the previous statements, which were likely strong and opinionated.

-Do you want to go to Alex's party now?
-No! I *don't* want to go to to his party because he's a total jerk. Just sayin'!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Preaching to the choir

'Preaching to the choir' means you are telling your (perhaps opinionated, strong or controversial) feelings about something to someone who already completely agrees with you.

-I just don't understand how the other side can actually think that way!
-Preaching to the choir!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shout, yell or scream?

'Shout' and 'yell' are synonyms that can be used when describing what someone does when they raise their voice extremely loud in order to be heard.

'Scream' is similar, but it adds another dimension to shouting or yelling: fear or excitement.

-Stop yelling at me! I can hear you just fine.

-On the roller coaster, we were screaming our heads off.

Friday, November 18, 2011


'Shit-faced' means really drunk.

-Last night we got so shit-faced!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


To 'co-opt' a phrase or expression means that a group takes an expression used by another group and repurposes it for their own needs. For example, the insult 'bitch' has been co-opted by American feminists as a word to show pride in their strength. Meredith Brooks' song "Bitch" (1997) illustrates this.

-You say I'm a bitch like it's a bad thing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


"D'oh" is the catch-phrase of Homer on the TV series "The Simpsons" (1989-) He says it whenever something bad or unfortunate happens to him, or when he makes a mistake. Part of what makes this phrase so memorable is the way in which he says it. (Search for "D'oh!" on YouTube until I post the link.)

-Hey, we had a test today! Where were you?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

None of my friends are going.

"None of my friends are going" is a very common mistake in spoken American English; you almost never hear it said correctly anymore.

The correct sentence should be, "None of my friends IS going," because 'none' is the subject and 'of my friends' is a prepositional phrase and therefore not the subject. But Americans usually match the verb to whatever's closest to it, subject or not.

-Are you going to the dance Friday night?
-I don't think so, Mom. None of my friends are going.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How come?

'How come?' is another way of asking "Why not?"

-I can't come over this Saturday.
-Oh? How come?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I know, right?!

'I know, right?!' is an expression used by Americans to show the other speaker they hear or understand what the other person is saying or means, and agrees with them.

-Your total is $3.00.
-$3.00 exactly?
-I know, right?!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


A 'school-night' is a night when there is school the next day. Sunday-Thursday are school-nights.

-Mom, can I watch tv?
-No, sweetie, it's a school-night! Time to take your bath!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Got a minute?

'Got a minute?' is a polite way for someone to ask you if you have time right now to listen to something they want to say. Interestingly, whatever they have to say usually takes much longer to say than a minute, which is why the person asking this question asks. The listener is also aware, and answers with, at minimum, a 5 minute conversation, in mind.

-Got a minute?
-Sure, what's up?

-Got a minute?
-Actually, I'm on my way out the door. Can we talk after my meeting?

True story:
A heartfelt thank you to @fondalo, who tweeted a link to this page to his 23,633 followers!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Many Americans use the word 'nazi' to call someone a name who they think is very strict or acting like a control freak.

This was illustrated in an episode of "Seinfeld," where the Soup Nazi would not give soup to people who ordered in a way that displeased him. On "Grey's Anatomy," there is a strict and tough doctor who has the nickname 'the nazi.'

By using 'nazi' in this way, the heartless brutality of the actual Nazis, who were responsible for the extermination of 6 million Jews, seems to be lost on most Americans.

-My professor is driving me crazy! She won't let us use our phones in class. What a phone nazi!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To tweak

'To tweak' something is corporate-speak for basic editing or making other minor changes.

-This document needs to be tweaked before we can send it out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


'C'mon' is an expression American English speakers use to try to encourage someone else to do something. It's short for 'Come on.' Most speakers say the abbreviated version unless they are in a more formal setting, or if they are angry and want to add emphasis to each word to show their frustration.

-C'mon, Mom! Please?!

(Person is stuck in traffic behind a very slow car) -COME ON!

Monday, November 7, 2011

My ass!

'My ass!' is a tag you can add to the end of a sentence to show that you don't believe what the other person just said is true. Since 'ass' is profanity, this expression should only be used in informal situations where you know the other person well.

-I'm thinking about coloring my hair. I'm starting to see too many grays.
-Can't imagine.
-Can't imagine, my ass!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

National treasure

A 'national treasure' is a person or thing that is highly admired by people from a particular country.

-Did you hear Andy Rooney died?
-Yeah, I saw that on the news this morning. How old was he?
-92. He just did his last episode of "60 Minutes" a month ago. I didn't watch "60 minutes" every Sunday, but when I did catch it, I always liked him. He was a real national treasure.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pull up a chair!

"Pull up a chair" is what is said when someone invites another person to join their group and discussion. 'Pulling up a chair' means to physically go get a chair and bring it over to the group so you can sit down with them and talk.

-Hi, Jim and Sue!
-Well, how are you?! Here, pull up a chair and join us!

Friday, November 4, 2011

What a dog!

Calling a man a 'dog' has a very different meaning than calling a woman a 'dog.' A man who is a 'dog' is being described as a person who sleeps around. A woman who is a 'dog' is being described as ugly.

-Guys don't want a relationship. All they want is to get laid.
-Men are dogs!

-Look at this picture! Can you believe that's his girlfriend?!
-What a dog!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

If apples are red, why isn't watermelon green?

The color of fruit is probably not something most native speakers of American English spend much time thinking about. And they don't need to; it's something they just know.

If the fruit is the same color on the inside and the outside, then it's a no-brainer. For example:

Oranges are orange.
Grapes are green or red.

But when the color of the skin or peel is different from the fruit itself, it gets confusing and can seem pretty random. Usually, the rule of thumb is that the fruit is whatever color the skin or peel is. For example:

An apple is red.
A banana is yellow.
A pear is green.
A strawberry is red.

On the other hand, some fruit is described by the color it is on the inside. For example:

Watermelon is red.
Kiwi is green.

It turns out that the color a fruit is described as being has to do with how native speakers usually encounter it or picture it in their minds. Do they see it as a piece of whole fruit, so it is the color on the outside? Or do they think of it as cut up, so it is the color on the inside?

-If apples are red, why isn't watermelon green?
-Good question! I have no idea!

True story:
I have used lots of idioms in this entry that haven't been defined yet, such as 'no brainer,' 'pretty,' 'random,' 'rule of thumb,' 'on the other hand, 'it turns out that,' and 'Good question!' I will define them in the future and then go back and link them with their definitions.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


'Atkins' refers to a diet low in carbohydrates that can help a person lose weight. When Dr. Atkins first developed his diet in the 70s, the mainstream medical establishment was quick to dismiss him as a quack, as his beliefs flew in the face of conventional wisdom at the time. Today, after the failed low-fat diet fad of the 90s, which only made Americans fatter, low-carb diets in general and Atkins specifically are quite popular.

-Are you following any special diet to help you lose weight?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shutting up now...

"Shutting up now..." is an expression speakers of American English use to show embarrassment and apologize when they realize they've been monopolizing the conversation and not giving the other person a chance to respond.

-Ok, shutting up now!