10 Things Americans Say… and What They Really Mean

 

Don’t be confused — this is not a place to lay down and have a rest!

When it comes to the spoken word, Americans are a truly baffling bunch. So we’ve decoded their most irritating idioms.

1. When an American shop assistant says, “Have a nice day!”
Translation: “Honestly, I don’t care what kind of day you have. But please tell my manager I was friendly so I get extra commission.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I will sob myself to sleep if I subsequently learn that you had a less than adequate day.”

2. When an American you’ve just met says, “Let’s have lunch sometime.”
Translation: “Let’s never ever eat a meal together.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I urgently need to see you put food in your mouth.”

3. When an American friend says, “I hooked up with…”
Translation: “I had sex with/kissed/hung out with…”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I attached myself to someone with a metal clasp.” 

4. When American parents say, “Good job!”
Translation: “Hey! Everyone! My two-year-old is a genius because he split an infinitive, then corrected himself! Also, he went pee-pee in the potty.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “Excellent career choice. Well done son.”

5. When a drunken American says, “I’m actually Irish.”
Translation: “My great great grandfather was part Irish. Or at least that’s what I heard.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I’m Irish.”

6. When a sarcastic American says, “You do the math.”
Translation: “Work it out, fish brain.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “Please do some long division immediately.”

7. When an annoying American says, “Your shirt is so cute!”
Translation: “That’s one good looking upper body garment, be it a vest top, a t-shirt or an actual bona fide shirt – with cuffs and a collar.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I’m sexually attracted to your blouse.” 

8. When an annoyed American says, “I could care less.”
Translation: “I couldn’t care less.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I could care less.”

9. When an American with a full bladder says, “I need to use the restroom.”
Translation: “I need the loo.”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “I need to find a room where I can have a quiet lie down.”

10. When a festive American says, “Happy holidays!”
Translation: “Happy culturally non-specific celebration in late December/early January!”
Definitely doesn’t mean: “Have a nice time in Ibiza.”

What Americanisms bother you?

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis