How good is your American English? Play along and find out.
In this American English slang lesson you’ll learn 6 American English colloquial expressions that Brits don’t use, and one (or maybe two) that both Brits and Americans use.
— riding shotgun
— bet the farm/ranch
— bought the farm
— the buck stops here
— rain check
To see our other American slang video, click here: https://youtu.be/8RJXV7A2mMI
To see our baseball idioms videos, click here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwrM2Wcy_MsBe5FMsZBCy65hpCMEw2XGu
To see our videos on British slang, click here: https://youtu.be/InnF3M5qWS0
We’re back with some more slang expressions today.
I have some American slang words and colloquial expressions here and I’m going to test Vicki with them.
And you can play along with me.
I’m Vicki and I’m British
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And we’re going to see if I know what some American expressions mean.
You did very well last time, but I think that’s because you’ve lived with me for more than twenty years.
Is this my prize?
Stop. You’ll have to get them right before see the prize.
Let’s get started then.
Oh yes, this is one my kids always used.
Riding shot gun. OK, if you have a car, there’s the driver of the car and then sitting next to them is the passenger.
All right, sitting next to them is the passenger.
And that seat… the person riding in that seat is riding shot gun. Is that right?
That’s exactly right. When a family would get into a car, one of the kids would shout out “I call shot gun’. That means they want to sit in that front passenger seat. Now this comes from the old west.
When the stage coaches took money and people and parcels all across the country. To protect whatever was in the stage coach, sitting next to the driver was a guy with a shot gun. He was riding shot gun.
To ride shot gun means to ride in the front passenger seat of a car or truck.
Oh, here’s one that’s fun.
Ooo. Pork. Well, of course literally pork is the meat that we get from a pig. But in American English, it has another meaning in American politics. It’s like.. um… it’s like a bribe that you add to a bill to get politicians to vote for it.
Very good. What happens is a legislator in the senate or the house of representatives, or one of our state legislatures is asked to vote for a specific bill to become law. And the legislator might say, ‘What’s in it for my district, for the people I represent?’ And so something will get added to the bill which costs more.
So the bill gets more and more expensive because of the pork.
And sometimes people won’t vote for it because it has too much pork.
Yes, and it benefits just a few instead of everybody.
Pork is a bad thing in American politics. What happens is legislators, those are the people who have the power to make laws, increase the money that’s spent on projects in their districts. They usually do it to get more votes but it means that government money isn’t shared fairly.
Here you go.
Bought the farm. I’m not sure if I know what this means. Erm. I know the expression ‘bet the farm’. And if you bet the farm then you bet everything you own. Usually on a very risky venture – a very risky bet. So you quite probably lose everything. Um. So does the farm represent all the belongings of a family or something?
Well, your explanation for ‘bet the farm’ is exactly correct, but ‘bought the farm’ means something very different.
Well, this expression was developed by American pilots in the second world war. When an aircraft would sadly crash in the ground they would say the pilot bought the farm.
The piece of ground where the pilot landed was the burial plot that he bought.
Now this followed from British pilots, also in the second world war, who said that when an aircraft crashed that the pilot ‘bought it’.
And we still say that in British English – ‘He bought it” and it’s an informal euphemism for ‘He died’.
If you bet the farm on something, you make a risky bet. For example, the company bet the farm on the new product and lost. But if someone ‘bought the farm’, it means they were killed. For example, his plane went down and he bought the farm.’
In British English, we might say ‘He bought it’ and it also means he was killed.
Oh, here’s a fun one.
Ooo. ‘Pass the buck’. Well, first of all, a buck is a dollar in American English. But that’s not what it is here, is it? No, if you pass the buck, then you avoid accepting responsibility that you should accept. So perhaps there’s a decision that was made, and someone has to accept the blame or say ‘I’m responsible’, but if you pass the buck you say “oh, they’re responsible. It had nothing to do with me.”
Right, no have you head the expression, ‘The buck stops here.’
Yes. I think it was said by an American President. Roosevelt?
Close. His successor, Harry Truman, the President from April 1945 to January of 1953, famously said, ‘The buck stops here’, meaning ‘I take full responsibility’.
If you pass the buck, you don’t accept full responsibility for something. For example, ‘It’s your fault so don’t try to pass the buck’. If someone says ‘The buck stops here’ it means they accept full responsibility. For example, ‘It’s my job to make this decision. The buck stops here’.
We should have more politicians who don’t pass the buck these days. It would be very good.
And next… Oh this is one of my favorites.
A rain check. Erm. It’s a baseball idiom and we’ve made some other videos about American baseball idioms. I’ll put the link there. If there’s a baseball game and it rains during the game so they have to stop play, then you get a rain check, which is like a ticket to another game.
Well, that’s very close. The rain check is actually part of the ticket, so if the game goes on, when people leave the stadium, they still have the raincheck because they still have their original ticket. When I was a kid, I would collect rainchecks from people who were leaving the stadium. All the kids did. And at the end of the summer, we would trade them to see who could collect the most complete set of rainchecks.
But most of the time, you don’t use it like this now. It has another meaning in American English. If I ask you do to something, like ‘Do you want to come to the movies?” and you say, ‘Oh, I’d love to but I’m busy tonight. Can I take a raincheck?’, it would mean, can we do it again at a later date? Yeah?
Yes, and it also is used in advertising and in stores. If a product is advertised at a sale price and you go to the store to get it and they’re sold out, you can get a rain check.
So what does that mean?
It means you can come back later to the store, when it’s back in stock, and buy it for the original sale price.
So you get the lower price.
A rain check has several meanings in American English. It can be a ticket that will get you into another baseball game if the first game is cancelled. It can be a promise to sell something at a low sale price. And we also use raincheck to refuse an invitation, but say we might accept it later. For example, ‘Do you want to come out tonight?’ ‘I can’t tonight, but can I have a raincheck?’
This is very interesting.
A lemon. Erm. Well, of course a lemon is a citrus fruit, a yellow fruit. Erm, but that’s not its only meaning in American English. If something is not working well, if it’s not fit to do the job it was supposed to do, then it’s a lemon.
If a product is badly made and doesn’t work the way it should, it’s a lemon. For example, ‘This car you sold me is a lemon! Give me my money back.’
And in fact, in almost every state in America, there is now a lemon law that allows you to return a car within a few days after you bought it if it’s not working very well.
I think we might use this phrase in British English now too. I’m not sure. So have I won a prize again?
Yes, I suppose so.
Why ‘I suppose so’? I did really well.
A chocolate brownie.
A vegan chocolate brownie. You’ll love it.
It’s a good prize!
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1 thought on “More American slang expressions that Brits don’t use”
Hi Vicki and Jay,
I just though that I would let you know the video posted on this website is the first video on American slang that was posted a while ago (the first expression is “for the birds”). However, the correct video is posted on Youtube.
PS: I love your videos. My students work in the global setting and need both US and British English (among others) to get their work done.