An easy guide to American English
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An easy guide to American English

Rupali Amin

Every country has its nuances when it comes to language. Specific terms and words are okay in one country and not okay in another. Not knowing this can lead to embarrassing situations. As you gear up to start a new life in America, it helps to brush up on your American English. If you're wondering where to start, we have a ready reckoner for you.

Usual terms used in American English

Let's start with the basics. Some standard American English terms and phrases you'll come across:

  • How's it going? : Typically used as a greeting, this question essentially asks what's going on in your life.
  • That's neat: When someone really likes something, they use this phrase to convey their approval.
  • To-go: Usually used while placing orders at restaurants, this indicates that you wish to pack the food and eat it elsewhere.
  • Check: Asking for the check means that you want your food bill.
  • Easy-peasy lemon squeezy: Something that is very easy.
  • Scoot over: A casual way to ask someone to make room, especially when they are seated.
  • Break a leg: Contrary to what it sounds like, this phrase conveys good luck and best wishes.
  • Graveyard shift: This phrase indicates work done between late night and early morning. In simple words, a night shift.
  • Under the weather: Used to indicate that someone is unwell.

Indian English vs. American English

Here's a list of words that mean entirely different things in Indian and American contexts:

Hike vs. Raise

In Indian English, a "hike" usually refers to an increase in salary. But in American English, a hike stands for a long walk, in hilly terrain (what we call a trek). The American English word for hike is raise.

Notes vs. Bills

We know currencies in their two primary forms: coins and notes. In India, it's common to say 'a hundred-rupee note.' But in American English, paper currencies are known as bills. This means you say 'a hundred dollar bill.' As for notes, they are what you take in classes and meetings - a form of documentation.

Football vs. Soccer

If you try to strike up a conversation surrounding sports, it helps to know that "football" means American Football in the US. As for the sport played with a black and white checkered ball (the one the likes of Messi and Ronaldo play) -  that's referred to as soccer.

Passed Out vs. Graduated

In India, it's common to say you "passed out of school in 2010." In American English, passing out means fainting - so unless you fainted in school in 2010, stick to saying "I graduated school in 2010."

Rubber vs. Eraser

Before you ask someone for a "rubber" to erase pencil marks, know that "rubber" is slang for condoms. This faux pas is probably going to leave you red-faced. So, ask for an eraser instead, and save yourself from an unwarranted trip to the HR department.

Closing Thoughts

Getting the hang of American English and nailing American pronunciation will take time, patience, practice, and exposure. So give it time and let this piece be your starting point.