How good is your American English slang?
In this American English slang lesson you’ll learn 7 American English colloquial expressions that Brits don’t use, and a couple that both Brits and Americans use.
– for the birds
– John Hancock
– shoot the breeze
– Monday morning quarterback
– Joe Blow or the average Joe
– John Doe and Jane Doe.
American English slang and expressions that Brits don’t use
I’m going to have fun today.
He’s going to test me.
And if Vicki does well, she gets a prize.
Ooh, what is it?
Uh uh, you can’t look. You have to wait and see.
Hi, I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m Vicki and I’m British.
We made a couple of videos about British slang that Americans don’t use a little while ago.
I’ll put the link here. Lots of you saw them and requested a video on American slang.
So I’ve got some American slang words and colloquial expressions and I’m going to see how many Vicki knows. How do you think you’ll do?
I should be pretty good because I’ve lived with you a long time. But there are still some words that I hear that I don’t know sometimes. So we’ll see.
You can play along with us. OK Vicki, here’s your first one.
For the birds. I think if something has no value then you say it’s for the birds.
If it has no value or it’s ridiculous. Can you give us an example? Use it in a sentence?
Oh, um, OK, uh this old sock has a hole in it. It’s for the birds.
Do you know where the expression comes from?
Well, in the days before we had automobiles, horses would travel down the street and leave manure behind them. And guess what would come and eat the manure?
Of course. So it’s for the birds.
Something that’s worthless or useless is for the birds. For example, this silly TV show is for the birds. Let’s turn it off. Here’s your next one.
Oh, this is a good one. Um, John Hancock. And it means, I think, your signature. So you might put your John Hancock on a document.
Exactly. But do you know who John Hancock was?
Oh, I think so. I think he was the first person to sign the declaration of independence. So he was the first traitor in America.
Well actually, he was president of the continental congress right here in Philadelphia in 1776. And when the declaration was first printed, he signed his name so large, the legend goes, so that King George III could see it without his spectacles.
So he was the first traitor to commit treason and betray his country.
He was a great American patriot. A John Hancock is an informal way of saying a signature. For example, put your John Hancock here. Here’s your next one.
Shoot the breeze. I know this. Shoot the breeze is when you have a casual conversation with your friends. And you just get together and talk about nothing much.
That’s exactly correct. Good job!
If we shoot the breeze, we have an informal conversation about this and that. Nothing important. For example, let’s have a beer and shoot the breeze for a while.
And, of course, we both say something is a breeze. If something is a breeze, then it’s very easy to do.
Exactly correct as well.
I hope my next question is a breeze.
If something is a breeze, it means it’s very easy to do. For example, it’s hard to cycle up this hill, but coming down will be a breeze.
We use breeze with this meaning in British English too.
Here’s another one for you.
Oh, good one. Ok. Monday-morning quarterback. Well, first of all, a quarterback is a football player – an American football player.
Well, he’s not only a football player, he leads the team. The quarterback is the person who designs all the plays and controls what’s happening from his team’s point of view and throws the ball.
But this is a Monday-morning quarterback. And that’s a person who looks back on an event and they have their own opinion about what should have happened and how things were done wrongly. And I guess its Monday morning because most football games are at the weekend?
College football is on Saturday and professional football is on Sunday.
So if you’re looking at it on Monday morning, then you’re looking back at what’s already happened.
A Monday-morning quarterback is someone who looks back after an event and complains about what other people did. So, for example, after the conference was over, he complained about how it was organized. He’s such a Monday-morning quarterback. Now, do you have the expression backseat driver?
Oh, we do and that’s similar. So in British and American English we’ll talk about a backseat driver. What do they do?
Well, they tell the driver what they should be doing. The back seat driver is really annoying.
Yes, they’re a bit different to a Monday-morning quarterback because they’re telling them while the other person’s driving. But the Monday-morning quarterback gives their advice on what should be done and shouldn’t be done afterwards, don’t they?
Exactly. A backseat driver is an annoying person who interferes and tries to tell you what to do. For example, stop being a backseat drive and let me do my job.
We say back seat driver in British English too.
OK, here’s your next one.
Oooh. Carpetbagger. I’m not exactly sure about this. I think that it’s someone who you can’t trust who might be a kind of crook or thief. And I know that it has some sort of historical background to it. And I think that there were people who had bags made out of carpet. And maybe they were crooks somehow.
I’ll give you a point for the bags made out of carpet. And it is a historical term. It comes from the American Civil War, from 1860 to 1865 when smugglers who were carrying illegal goods that weren’t allowed in the south, or weren’t allowed in the north, and they put them in bags made of carpet or in big carpet rolls that they carried over their shoulders. They were carpetbaggers. But, it has a totally different meaning today. Do you know what that means?
Well, you know a carpetbagger…
In recent political history. Hillary Clinton.
A carpetbagger today is a politician who lives in one place and then moves to another and runs for office. Hillary Clinton grew up and lived in Arkansas. And after Bill Clinton’s presidency was over she moved to New York state and ran for senate.
And they called her a carpetbagger.
Exactly. A carpetbagger is a political candidate who runs for office in a place that they’re not from. The idea is they are not welcome, so it’s a derogatory term. OK, what do you think about this one?
Oh, Joe Blow. Joe Blow is the name that’s given to stand for the average man, an average guy.
Right. We also say, the average Joe.
And it just means the man in the street.
The ordinary guy, that’s right.
OK. Um, in British English we also say Fred Bloggs, or Joe Bloggs and it’s just the name for a sort of Mister average, that we sometimes use.
Joe Blow, or the average Joe, is an ordinary man in the street. For example, what do the new tax cuts mean for the average Joe?
In British English we might say Joe Blogs, and it means much the same thing.
Now, there’s another term on there that I gave you.
Joe… John Doe. John Doe. I associate John Doe with dead bodies in morgues.
Well, that’s sort of how it goes. If the police can’t identify someone, living or dead, they’ll give them the name John Doe or Jane Doe.
John Doe can also mean the average man but it has another meaning too. John Doe or Jane Doe is the name used for a person whose name is a secret or not known. These names are placeholder names in court or in police investigations.
How did I do?
I think I was very good. Do I get the prize?
Yes, you get the prize.
Ok, I get… oh, this is good – two tickets to the comedy show at the Adrienne theater.
Right, we’ll have lots of fun. Hey, if you liked this video, please share it with a friend and give it a thumbs up.
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