Americans Speaking English as a Second Language: 18 English Phrases Foreign to Americans

At 339 million, English has the third most native speakers in the world. And with the countless people speaking English as a second included, English is easily one of the most prevalent and ubiquitous languages on earth. The problem is, with over 170,00 words in numerous dialects, English is also one of the most complicated languages to learn. It’s no wonder that Americans can feel like things have been lost in translation when travelling to other countries that speak English.

With that in mind, here’s a list of

18 English Phrases Foreign to Americans

  1. Mobile: When someone asks whether you have a mobile, don’t be offended and assume they just called you a baby. It’s only another word for cell phone.
  2. Barney: If someone ever tells you that they just got out of a barney, it’s not because they own a purple dinosaur costume. A barney is actually a fight.
  3. Gobsmacked: If anyone ever tells you that they’ve been gobsmacked, you probably won’t know what to think. Has someone been slapped? Was there an explosion? Is this somehow related to candy? Rest assured, to be gobsmacked only means being surprised beyond belief.
  4. All to Pot: You might think that this phrase comes from a cookbook about stews, but you’d be way wrong! You might say something went “all to pot” if a situation spirals out of control.
  5. Knackered: Being “knackered” sounds like maybe you’ve got a new hobby, as though you’ve just learned you have a knack for something. Nope. People use knackered to describe being exhausted after a long day.
  6. Collywobbles: If someone tells you that they have collywobbles, don’t assume is a fun new game and ask them to show you. Collywobbles is a feeling of nervousness or an upset stomach.:
  7. Fence: Calling someone a fence seems like an insult, it seems like the person is boring. Well Tom Sawyer, don’t get out your whitewash yet. A fence is actually a term for someone who deals in stolen property.
  8. Wag off: Wagging off doesn’t mean acting like a dog and shaking your rump. It actually means to play truant and not show up somewhere.
  9. Cracking: It’s good to be cracking in England. Your car should be cracking, your furniture should be cracking, and your voice should be cracking. That’s because cracking means “the best”.
  10. Take the Piss out of: Stop right there. This phrase doesn’t have anything to do with the bathroom. It just means to mock, tease, or bring down a peg.
  11. Bob’s Your Uncle!: Don’t assume anyone has been studying your genealogy, when someone says “Bob’s your uncle”, all they’re really saying is “you’ve got it!”
  12. Crusty Dragon: Having a crusty dragon isn’t as cool as it sounds. This little phrase refers to a hard piece of snot, or booger.
  13. Fit: If someone calls you fit, it might not be the compliment you think. Instead of being in shape, this means attractive.
  14. Know One’s Onions: When someone claims that they know their onions, it doesn’t mean they’re a chef or farmer. This phrase refers to being well acquainted with any subject.
  15. Drop a Clanger: When somebody drops a clanger, don’t expect to hear a bell ringing. This just means to make a gaffe or faux pas.
  16. Her Majesty’s Pleasure: Some might think it’s an honor to serve at Her Majesty’s pleasure, but only if you like a little confinement. This phrase refers to serving time in a penitentiary.
  17. I’m easy: Don’t be offended if a new friend answers “I’m easy” when you ask what to do after dinner. This phrase just means, “I don’t care”.
  18. Flutter: Fluttering with someone doesn’t mean dancing around and flapping your hands like butterflies, this is just another expression for making a wager.

Keep these phrases in mind the next time you travel, unless you want t look like an ugly american.

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