Center for International Education

 

Holloway Hall
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American Slang

Listed below is a number if idiomatic usages or "slang" terms, some of which relate especially to academics and classes. They are provided because you will hear them used by your classmates and occasionally by professors. Like such terms in any language, these depend very much on context for their meaning and many are appropriate only in an informal context with friends and classmates. This list is not intended as a usage guide, but only to help you understand what you hear. You will get much more comfortable with these terms (and many others!) As you listen to your friends and classmates.

Here is a list of those that are most common:

ASAP - "As Soon As Possible." A task you should complete immediately.

At One’s Fingertips - Easily recalled or available.

Bar - A place where alcoholic beverages are served.

Big Deal - Anything important or exciting.

Blown Away - To be really surprised or shocked about something.

Break the Ice - Make a beginning. Initiate a conversation.

Broke - Having no money.

Buck - A U.S. dollar.

Bummer - An unpleasant experience.

BYOB - "Bring Your Own Beer." May be included on a party invitation.

Cash - Paying someone with currency rather than a check or credit card.

Change - Coins: penny = 1 cent, nickel = 5 cents, dime = 10 cents, quarter = 25 cents, and half dollar = 50 cents. After you make a purchase, the money you get is called your change.

Check Out - 1. Look over a situation. 2. Something that is done in a grocery store; i.e., stand in the "checkout" line means to give your groceries to a cashier to "check them out" and pay for them. 3. To borrow a book from a library for a certain amount of time.

Cool - 1. Low temperature. 2. Also slang for nice, good, ("She is a cool teacher").

Cool It - Calm Down.

Cop - "Constable on Patrol." Slang for policeman.

Cop-out - To not accept responsibility.

Cram - To study frantically the night before a test because you have not consistently studied throughout the course. To study at the last minute.

Cut-it-out - Stop it.

Cut Class - To be deliberately absent from class. Same as to "skip out" or "skip class".

Date - A pre-arranged social activity involving at least two people. To go out with someone. The word also refers to the person you go out with.

Down - To feel depressed or sad, ("I am down").

Drive Me Up The Wall - To make one very nervous, upset, or annoyed.

Fall For - To take a strong liking for someone or something. Also to be fooled or tricked, ("I fell for the joke").

Fed Up - Disgusted with, or tired of something or someone.

Finals - The last examinations of the semester.

Flunk - To fail a test or a course.

Gay - Refers to an individual with homosexual or lesbian preferences.

Get Screwed - To be deceived or treated unfairly.

Gripe - To complain.

Hang On - Wait for a short while.

Hang In There - Keep trying. Do not be discouraged.

Hassle - Problem. "What a hassle" means " What a problem." To be "hassled" means to be troubled or bothered.

Have Cold Feet - To be nervous, uncertain, or anxious.

High - (Or Buzz) Intoxicated from liquor or drugs. Not to be confused with "hi" which means "hello".

High Five - A phrase uses when two people hit their right hands in mid-air, used to celebrate or congratulate each other.

Hit The Books - To study hard.

Hit The Sack - To go to sleep.

Hold Up - Delay in doing something.

Hot - 1. Warm temperature. 2. Also, slang for "good looking" ("I saw a hot looking woman last night").

How Are You - A way to say "hello."

Hung Up - 1. To be in conflict over a problem. 2. Also, the action one does whith the phone when a conversation has ended.

In A Nutshell - Very brief or concise

Jerk - An obnoxious or annoying person.

Luck Out - To do well when you did not expect to.

Make-up - 1. To apologize after a fight or disagreement. 2. To complete an assignment after it was due. 3. Cosmetics a person uses.

On The House - Free. No cost, ("The dinner was on the house").

Out Of It - Somebody whose mind is far away or preoccupied.

Out Of The Question - Unthinkable. Impossible.

Pig Out - To eat excessively.

Play It By Ear - To respond to circumstances as they arise.

Psyched - To be mentally prepared for something. To be excited about something to come.

Pull One’s Leg - To tease someone.

Pull Strings - Use influence to get something.

Pull Wool Over Someone’s Eyes - To deceive or mislead someone.

Put-down - An insult. Or the act of humiliating someone.

Rip Off - To steal. To charge an exorbitant price for some item, or something not worth its price, ("That concert was a rip-off").

R.S.V.P. or r.s.v.p. - "Repondez s’il vous plait" in French. Means that you should respond to an invitation.

Run Around With - To be friends with someone.

Scam - To do something dishonest.

Screwed Up - 1. Confused. 2. Mistaken. 3. To have done something incorrectly.

Skip - To not go to class. The same thing as to "cut class."

Syllabus - A handout provided by a course instructor which outlines course content, procedures, grading policy, etc.

Take a Raincheck - To postpone an invitation, accepting it for a later date.

Take For Granted - To assume.

Through The Grapevine - Something heard through informal channels or gossip.

Underhanded - Dishonest, almost illegal.

Under The Table - Illegal. Not honest.

Under The Weather - Sick. Not well.

Up tight - Worried. Tense.

Wasted - 1. "High" or intoxicated. 2. Not used smartly, as someone "wasted" their time or money.