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August 07, 2009

What'd I Say? Slang and Informal English

In informal conversation, English, especially American English, holds endless, sometimes dangerous and occasionally contradictory hazards for...

...the learner of English.

Consider this short language quiz that gives some background to some of the more confusing elements of English.

The Answers are at the bottom of the page

1. If you are tired, you're ...

2. He's on cloud nine means he's ...

3. Yup is another way to say ...

4. Food is ...

5. Money is ...

6. A stupid person is an ...

7. If something is questionable, this means it's ...

8. A person who loves chocolate is a ...

9. A big party is a ...

10. If you drink too much, the next day you'll be ...

1. beat or blown or wasted
2. happy or excited
3. yes
4. grub or chow
5. cash or dough
6. airhead or flake
7. suspicious or fishy
8. chocoholic
9. bash
10.hungover or wasted

To help you keep track of these ideas and terms, consider the word picture that is embedded in each of these words. "Dough" for example, refers to what one uses to make bread. The premise is that if you have food, you musty have money - and if you have money, you certainly have food.

In the same way, an "airhead" is someone whose head is full, not with brains, but with air.

A smart person, on the other hand, might be known as a "brainiac".

I encourage you to be a brainiac. Yes, English can be confusing, but you can master it. Don't give up, but focus on one term, one word, one memorable image at a time.

t is good to remember that we are all always learning. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at August 7, 2009 11:38 PM

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Hi Morf,

I couldn't agree more with the fact that English learners have a hell of time learning, much less understanding and then using, all the spectrum of idioms and figure of speeches native speakers use. If you or anyone who knows of a source of book that can explain the origin of idioms and relate them to their current, modern usage, I would be interested in purchasing something like that for my classroom of international ESL students (most in their 20s and 30s) studying in Los Angeles.

For example, how does one begin to explain how we got "raining like cats and dogs" to raining really hard, or "kick the bucket" to dying or being dead? Idioms like these are quite the head-scratcher because they don't apparently carry any connection to the actual meanings as used today.


ESL teacher
Alhambra, California

Posted by: Ro at August 9, 2009 06:40 PM

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