Slang and Other Nonsense in the English Language

There was a request in the comments of a previous post about understanding and using more idioms in the English language. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to dig into some of the slang and other odious expressions we bandy about – you know, the crap we say – or the words we speak that really don’t make much sense.

A quick warning – if you’re a gentle soul, some of these might be marginally offensive. If you can’t handle it or don’t care to – stop reading now!

“Shut up” – Be quiet. Quit speaking now. Don’t talk any more.

“Shut the f*ck up” – Now you should really be quiet.

“Off the chain” – Normally this is a good thing, i.e. “That party was off the chain!”

“Off the hook” – Also a good thing. “That party was off the hook!”

“Get the hook up” – You’re going to be connecting with someone. You might be connecting with them on a romantic style date or you might be getting something beneficial because you happen to know the right person. “You’re going out with her? You’re going to get the hook up, man!” “Come by the shop about nine when the boss is out and I’ll get you the hook up.” This can also be said as “I’ll hook you up.”

“Just a sec” – Wait a second. This really means just sit down and wait for me to get around to you – it might be a few minutes or an hour, but it’s almost never an actual second.

“Sloppy seconds” – This refers to picking up something, or someone, after a friend. If you start dating a girl who dated your friend or brother first, you’re getting “sloppy seconds.”

“Crunk” or “Crank” – These can have a few meanings, but they usually mean you’re either very excited or very drunk or very high. It might sometimes mean things are going poorly, so you’ll need to use the tone of voice or the surrounding sentences to figure out the meaning.

“Guesstimate” – An annoying saying that means you’re going to guess. Or you’re going to estimate. Or you’re going to do both.

“Step up” – This usually means you need to improve in some way. You need to “step up to the plate” (a baseball reference) or “step up your game” and simply do a better job at whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re having a fight in a bar somewhere, you might also be told to “step up” meaning you should get ready to throw some fisticuffs.

“Same difference” – This is supposed to mean that we agree to disagree or that we’re saying the same thing even though we’re not. It’s really that confusing to all of us – native or not.

“Bite me” – An insult meaning to go away and leave me alone. This is usually something you said when you’re all out of creative insults. “Oh yeah? Well you can just bite me.”

“F*ck off” – This is very similar to “bite me” and demonstrates an astonishingly small vocabulary. “Why don’t you just F- off?”

“Your mom” – Another insult. This one presumably began with a huge number of “Your mom/ Yo mama” jokes that are still very popular with nine-year-old boys and some grown men. The jokes have faded, but some people still just toss out a “your mom!” as a sort of insult designed to demonstrate that they have never truly evolved from puberty. (A quick example of a “your mom” joke: Your mom’s so stupid she can only count to 20 when she’s barefoot. – Amazing, I know.)

“That’s what she said!” – Yet another random insult that isn’t really that funny 99 percent of the time. This is usually sexual in nature and is randomly thrown into a conversation. For example, you buy a sandwich and say, “This is so small – it’s a total waste!” Your immature buddy says, “That’s what she said!” We can only assume he’s poking fun at certain anatomical elements of the male body.

“Cold as hell” – Yes, hell is supposed to be very, very hot. So this makes no sense to any of us, but we accept it to mean that it’s very cold. Strangely enough, “hot as hell” is just as common and actually makes sense.

“No sh*t” – Sarcasm at its finest in most cases, or it can be used as a question. If someone says something obvious, you could respond with “No sh*t” meaning you knew that and they are an idiot for even mentioning it. If you’re genuinely intrigued by something someone said, you can also use it as a question. To do this, you just stick a question mark on the end and raise your voice slightly. “Wow, no sh*t? That’s crazy!”

“Third wheel” - While you actually need four wheels to drive a car making a third wheel nice to have in real life, in a conversation it’s considered a bad thing. If you’re the “third wheel” you’re the one who’s not matched up with someone else.

Anyone else care to jump in on these?

Profile image for Rebecca Garland
Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

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12 thoughts on “Slang and Other Nonsense in the English Language”

  1. Just a minor correction. “That’s what she said” is not an insult. It’s a joke. I’ve never heard it used in an insulting way. It’s word play.

    • I hear it in an insulting way all the time, but it might be the company I keep. I teach high school and I hear it between boys especially every chance they can get to insult each other in a “just joking” kind of way. Unfortunately, my tolerance for “but I’m only kidding and it’s funny” kind of insults is very low when it comes to poking fun at other people as it’s now society’s introductory way to insult or pick on each other under the guise of an innocent joke. But then again, I work with a lot of kids who have struggled with bullying of all types, so I’m kind of a no tolerance kind of girl.

      I do see where if you only interact with adults who know how to use this truly as a joke it would remain in joke status, but it’s a pretty fine line to walk between funny and insults disguised as funny – at least in my opinion.

      • I think it’s an insult in the example you gave in the post as it’s directed at someone else and it’s pretty obvious what they’re implying about the other person. But I’ve seen it used more generically too. My brothers, for example, will sometimes go into these odd fits where that’s the response to every other thing out of their mouths. Yes. I have a mature family.

  2. “That’s what she said…” is familiar to fans of the TV show “The Office.” The bumbling boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) uses it quite frequently. Maybe I’m immature, but I still think it’s funny.

    • Okay, okay – it is funny more than 1 percent of the time. I just have the unfortunate experience hearing it from the mouths of 14-year-old boys all day, so it tends to be used in a crass, obnoxious kind of way. I think that’s tainted my opinion of that particular phrase. 🙂

  3. You may need to reevaluate the meaning of “sloppy seconds”. Rarely have I heard it used in that gentle a fashion, and I hang around folks whose language would make a sailor blush. I’ve never heard it used in company that didn’t include people like that.

    Just sayin’. 🙂

    • It might depend a bit on the gender of the audience. Women (when I was younger at least) frequently just used the phrase to refer to dating. Not entirely innocent mind you, but not always in a vulgar sense either. More used when you were pissed a friend would start seeing someone you split with than anything else — you’re pretend you didn’t care because they were just getting “sloppy seconds.” I can certainly see it being used in a less “gentle” fashion, and maybe that’s more common today. But definitely not the only way it’s used.

      • Very interesting, Jennifer. I’ve never heard a woman say that, even those who hung around the aforementioned group. I guess I’ve been getting sloppy second-hand information.

        • It’s not something I hear women my age saying now. Like I said, it was more a sign of youthful immaturity when you couldn’t react to things like that — you turned to put-downs. High school, college — not something I really hear anymore (from any group).

        • I’d always heard it the way Jenn’s saying – girls pretty much jealous that you’re dating their ex. I looked it up on Urban Dictionary, though… much different definition.

  4. You know what’s annoying? It’s when someone you work with actually say these things to your face. I guesstimate, perhaps. These are interesting though. I think the manner and voice of saying can also alter the meanings of these words. Just a thought. Now the real crux here is seeing an American using this language to a Brit – that might be fun.

  5. Yeah, these idioms are okay, but I think our slang can get more creative – these are pretty outdated. I think we need to implement more movie quotes into our vernacular. Here’s how such a conversation would work:

    FRIEND: Yo, what’s up, man?
    ME: Not much, I have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen!

    You’ll know your slang was successful when that person never speaks with you again.


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