Slang is the poetry of everyday life. – S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Action, 1941
Going to an American college more than halfway across the world can seem a bit nerve-racking, especially when English isn’t your first language.
To help keep you out of finding yourself in an uncomfortable or awkward social conversation, while also having a bit of college fun, let’s take a look at popular American slang/lingo/idioms and see which phrases or words to use or not to use!
Examples of Cool Slang
Hit The Books – This is a common American phrase used as an excuse for not attending a social gathering or when leaving so-called gathering.
Example: It’s been a great party but I have to go hit the books now; or, I would love to come tonight, but I have to hit the books.
Tired* – Contrary to the true definition of this word, i.e. sleepy or ready to fall asleep, the slang version gives meaning to objects that are so last year, no longer hip or cool.
Hang Out– This doesn’t literally mean hanging from your college dorm window! Hang or hanging out means to go somewhere with a specific group of friends in which you can hang at your favorite location.
Example: Do you want to hang out at Starbucks after class?
Gut Class/Course– A phrase specifically designed for college students, gut classes are classes that everyone passes with little workinvolved and typically aces the course.
Example: Geometry of Nature is an awesome gut!
Nyetshirt – A term used for a college sweatshirt of a university that a student desperately wanted to attend but was rejected from.
Example: There’s so much pizza grease on this, you can hardly make out the ‘Cornell.’ Thank God it’s just a nyetshirt!
All-Nighter – An old but still extremely popular phrase meaning to stay up all night long studying, usually before a college exam.
Example: I hope I can stay awake in class after the all-nighter I just pulled.
Examples of Out-of-Date Slang
411 – Used to give someone else information.
Example: Here’s the 411 on…blah, blah, blah.
Anything Ending In ‘izzle Or ‘eezy – Sure, Snoop Dogg is legendary and every decade that he comes out with a new album, it’s destined to be a chart smasher; HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean that his slang doesn’t get tired* (see above).
Example: (Perhaps the most iconic of his expressions) Fo’ Shizzle!
Phat – Synonymous to meaning large but used as a compliment of great proportions rather than degradation of a person’s size.
Example: That Mercedes Benz is crazy phat!
Whazzzzzzzzzup? – Another version of saying, ‘What’s Up?’ to close friends that was hilarious for about 10 seconds before it got parodied and then verbally pummelled to death.
Examples of Slang To NEVER Say
Rubber – Many non-Americans call pencil erasers, ‘rubbers’, but in America? Not so much! Asking someone to pass you a rubber during a crucial exam is like asking someone to pass a prophylactic which will definitely cause a few chuckles!
Bad Example: May I borrow your rubber?
Good Example: May I borrow your eraser?
This was written all in good fun and to take a break from all of those applications, forms and IELTS/TOEFL tests. The truth is, you’ll be just fine!
When you travel abroad for your higher education, remember that there are hundreds of thousands of international students, just like yourself. You’ll easily find peers with the same interests, same backgrounds or cultures, same religion and you’ll also find those who will take you under their wing to guide and mentor you along the way.
Believe it or not, Americans are a curious bunch of people! They will ask questions about your language and culture because they have a real interest in you – not because they want to laugh or make fun of you.
America is the most diverse country in existence with insane amounts of fantastically diverse universities, which means people are extremely accepting of all different cultures. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your surroundings and have made a few friends, go ahead and extend an invitation to your American friends to attend a cultural event with you. They’ll willingly accept and most likely, bring some of their friends along!
If you can think of any funny or hilarious foreign or American slang you’ve heard in various parts of the world that would sound funny in U.S. campus life, go ahead and feel free to add your examples to our short list of Slang To NEVER Say, in the comments section!