We’ve covered slang in nearly all of the major regions of the country. From New York slang to Texas slang and even the ever-classic Boston slang, we’ve racked up quite the list of some of the United States’ most unique forms of speech.
But, when it comes time to travel to the States, there are a few American sayings that you’ll find nearly all over the country. They’re the kind of phrases that aren’t necessarily slang words, so to speak. And, they’re not really specific to any particular region.
In short, they’re the sayings that personify American speech and culture. However, as a foreigner, you might find yourself puzzled the first time you hear them. So, master these seven American sayings before travelling to the USA to ensure you don’t make any embarrassing cultural mistakes.
1. Brownie Points
This is one of those American sayings that truly has nothing to do with what you think it does. One reader put it perfectly when they described it as “imaginary social currency.” In the States, you see, when you do a good deed or do something amazing, you’re awarded what they call brownie points. No, you never redeem them or even keep count. But, you will find that you might hear this a lot in workplaces and perhaps even in school settings.
2. Scoot Over
As an American, this one seems pretty obvious. And, as a traveller, you can expect to hear this one quite a bit if you’re planning on taking any sort of public transportation. To scoot over means to move over. As in, scoot over, you’re taking up half the seat! Someone might politely (or not so politely) ask you to scoot over to make room. Or, depending on what area of the USA you find yourself in, they might replace scoot with schooch. It means the same thing.
3. Cut To The Chase
There’s no denying the fact that Americans seem to have international fame for being a bit impatient. It’s why we walk so darn fast. So, this is one of the most common American sayings you might hear when you’re visiting the country. If you’re blabbing on an on about something, anything, someone might tell you to cut to the chase. It just means that they want you to get to the point. You know, don’t waste any time. Tell us the important facts and be done with it.
4. Not A Big Fan
With so many, as Spanish-speakers like to put it “anglicismos” nowadays, the word fan is actually pretty common in various different countries outside of the United States. In countries like Colombia, for example, you’ll hear it used as a part of their sayings as well. But, for others, the phrase not a big fan of might still be confusing. It’s got nothing to do with any big, cooling fans. It literally just means that you don’t really like something. For example…”Do you like the burgers at In N Out?” “Nope, I’m not a big fan.”
5. Piece Of Cake
Food plays a big part in American culture and American sayings. And, this is one of the biggest phrases you’ll hear in American English regardless of where you’re at in the country. Does it have to do with being sweet? Nope. What about slicing something? Guess again. It means that something is easy. You might also hear some people use the phrase cakewalk. And, it means the same thing. If something was a cakewalk then it was super easy.
6. How Are You?
This phrase is easy to understand literally. But, people who aren’t used to American English or American culture seem to be confused when locals ask them, how are you? We’re sorry to tell you that they’re likely not really asking how you are. It’s just an easy way to say hi. This is actually common in other languages and cultures nowadays, but you’ll see it a lot in the States. If someone asks you how you are, just say “fine, thanks” and move on with your day.
7. I Hear Ya
Again, this is something that seems just so simple yet it doesn’t really mean what it literally means. You follow? If an American says “I hear ya,” they’re not telling you that they physically hear you. It just means that they understand or sympathise. So, if you’re hanging out with friends at the bar after work and one is complaining about their day, you can sympathise with their woes by shaking your head and saying, “Man, I hear ya.”