The informal words and expressions we refer to as slang often derive from more formal language that has undergone abbreviation or popularization to some degree. Slang often purposefully excludes those not considered part of a particular subgroup. Although, both Britains and Americans speak English, they use different slang terms and one word may/may not be considered inappropriate in polite company. For example, “bloody” in U.S. English means covered or smeared with blood, but in the U.K. they use the term as a swear word or to add emphasis.
Before using slang you have heard, check out how people where you live might understand it. While you may not mean it to sound vulgar, it may have an association that many do not consider appropriate.
See a few examples of common slang from American culture below:
airhead (stupid person)
beat (exhausted, tired)
big mouth (talk too much)
blimp (very fat person)
catch some Z’s (get some sleep)
couch potato (lazy person)
cram (study hard)
hyped up (excited)
nuke (heat in the microwave)
piece of cake (easy)
pig out (overeat)
pit stop (stop to go to the bathroom)
screw around (waste time)
veg out (relax and do nothing)
According to social scientists, U.S. regional dialects can breakdown to anywhere from three to 24 varieties. Deciding where one dialect begins and another ends can prove tricky since gradual differences seem to occur rather than drastic ones. Also, various differences in dialect depend on factors like social class, gender, occupation and ethnicity, in addition to region.
The differences in the regional dialects in the U.S. largely come from a combination of who first settled that area and who migrated there. Dialect differences generally differ more from North to South than East to West because as settlers migrated west across the country, they took their dialects with them. Settlement of the western parts of this country generally occurred by many people from many places, resulting in less distinctive dialects than those east of the Mississippi River.
Social isolation also influences regional dialects. Those who live in more socially isolated groups (whether because of geographical boundaries like mountains or water, or because of immigrant settlements in urban cities) tend to develop more distinguishing speech patterns than those who interact with a larger number of people.
Major regional dialects tend to follow geographic boundaries. The basic three dialects in the U.S. include New England, Southern, and Western/General, with sub-dialects branching off from those main categories. We distinguish the three basic differences in regional dialects as vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.
Depending on what part of the country you live in, you will hear people call carbonated drinks either pop or soda, or even a generic coke. Fireflies and lightning bugs are two names for the same insect, and you, y’all, you’uns and you guys offer different ways to address others in the second person plural.
You might notice grammatical differences by the structure of a sentence. Some Southerners would say “I might could mow the lawn today,” meaning the same thing as “I could mow the lawn today.” Or in Pennsylvania, people typically say “the car needs washed,” instead of “the car needs to be washed.”
Pronunciation causes the same words to sound different based on how someone pronounces them. In the South, the words “pin” and “pen” sound identical, and in the Northeast you might not hear the “r” in the word “car,” or you might hear a blurred “w” sound instead of a hard “r” sound in the word “born.” You might hear people say that Southerners speak with a drawl and Mid-Westerners have a nasal twang, or that people from certain areas speak more slowly than others. Unfortunately, these kinds of distinctions can lead to stereotypes and misconceptions.
The use of vulgar or offensive words to insult someone, emphasize something or express aggression or disrespect is commonly known as swearing or cursing. Although some Americans use a great deal of vulgarity in their everyday speech, it does nothing to enhance or improve communication and can deeply offend others around you. Particularly in business and professional settings it should be avoided.