Stock American Phrases

Gawd dammit!
Pvt Hank The Yank, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade

Phrases often used by Americans in fiction, especially of the stereotypical kind. Ironically, most of these show up in American fiction as stock regional phrases.

Totally Radical tends to use traditional (and out-dated) American surfer slang. See also American Accents and American English.

  • "Dude!" was originally a Californian expression having nothing to do with the ranch term. A dude is a person, usually male but it can be gender neutral. "Dude!" by itself can be used as a generic exclamation.
  • "Man" is the earlier version of "dude." Peppering your speech with "man" like a Verbal Tic started with the beatniks and carried on from there.
  • Common farewells:
    • "Have a nice day" or "Have a good one." A generic farewell. Note that "Have a nice day" in particular is associated with service personnel (cashiers, clerks, receptionists, etc.) almost to the point of cliche, so using it with people you know will feel distant and rigid.note 
    • "Goodbye" or "bye" is the typical farewell when you're on the phone. Saying "goodbye" in person has more connotations of a formal or long-term farewell.
    • "See you (around/soon)," "see you later," "see you" and "later" are all more informal versions of "goodbye".
  • Greetings:
    • "How are you?", "How you doing?", and "How's it going?": Often used in place of "Hello." One must be aware of whether the speaker is simply greeting you or if he is actually trying to initiate a conversion. It's usually just a greeting. In this case, the expected response is a short neutral or positive statement such as "Fine," or "Great!" If someone really wants to start a conversation, they'll make the statement a bit longer, such as "So, how have you been doing lately?"
    • "What's up?" or "What's going on?": Another greeting, usually with limited expectations on the response.
    • "Hey" by itself is a very informal greeting and can be considered somewhat rude, especially when used with your elders or social betters.
    • "Honey, I'm home!" The generic announcement for a man arriving home after work. Comes from Fifties sitcoms, in which the working husbands always arrive to stay-at-home wives.
    • "Howdy!" Short for "How do you do?" but now used as a synonym for "hello." This is a stock Texan phrase, used unironically there and in neighboring parts of the South and Southwest, but ironically everywhere else.
    • "Where Y'at?" is a common greeting in New Orleans.
    • "Yo" is commonly associated with blue-collar New Yorkers and more generally African-Americans.
  • While "you" is considered standard for both singular and plural second person statements, some regional dialects informally use different forms for second personal plural:
    • "Y'all," short for "you all," is strongly associated with the South and Texas. For additional emphasis that every single person is included in the statement, the speaker might say "all y'all."
    • "Youse", "youse guys", and "you guys" are all used in various parts of the Northeast.
    • Yinz, associated with Pittsburgh and some surrounding areas.
    • "You'enz"" is similar to "yinz", though distinctly two-syllables. It's associated with the Ohio River Valley between Ohio and West Virginia, as well as some parts of Appalachia.
  • "Fuhgeddaboudit" is "forget about it" said in a Northeastern, Italian-American accent, most heavily associated with Brooklyn. The phrase has a number of uses, from the literal, to "oh my God!" to "shut up!" Because the culture is so strongly associated with The Mafia in pop culture, the phrase can take on darker connotations.
  • "Mason-Dixon Line." A demarcation line that initially marked the northern border of Maryland, it was later stretched west to denote the traditional boundary between Northern culture and Southern (Dixie) culture, running along the northern borders of Virginia (including what is now West Virginia) and Kentucky. Thus, "north of the Mason-Dixon line" would be Northern, and vice-versa. Today, the distinction between North and South has become more vague. Maryland and northern Virginia (the Washington, D.C. suburbs) are now generally seen as being more Northern than Southern, while parts of southern Illinois and Indiana are often treated as an extension of the South. Florida is a mash-up of Northern and Southern cultures.
    • Interestingly, North Florida (especially the Panhandle region) is more Southern, while Central and South Florida is more Northern. This is largely due to the "snowbirds" (wealthy Northerners) who migrate there in the winter and the relatively large number of retirees who prefer the warm climate to that of their home states.
  • "God bless America!" a traditional patriotic statement, now reduced to cliche by politicians and two centuries of overuse. Often used ironically when you're annoyed about something related to the government.
    • Also used as a Last-Second Word Swap. When "goddammit" would be inappropriate, you frequently hear "God... bless America!"
  • "Yankee". To non-Americans, this (along with the shortened form, "Yank", which is almost never heard in the US) is a catch-all term for Americans in general. In the US, however, it refers strictly to people from the Northeast (especially New England) and, sometimes, the Midwest and the West. It is never used in reference to people from the South. To quote E. B. White:
    To a foreigner, a Yankee is an American. To an American, a Yankee is a Northerner. To a Northerner, a Yankee is an Easterner. To an Easterner, a Yankee is a New Englander. To a New Englander, a Yankee is a Vermonter. And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.
  • "Wicked" is a regional intensifier heavily associated with Boston (as in "wicked awesome"), but also used throughout the Northeast. Elsewhere, the word is held with particular disdain or amusement.
    • "Mad" is its largely identical New York sibling (due to geographical overlap, it has also migrated up to New England) with one key difference: it can also be used to signify great abundance (e.g., "mad people here"). It's also very common in New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania.
  • "Sure" affirming a choice, alternative is "ok". Used as a less direct form of Yes.
  • Totally Radical slang is generally rooted in using grandiose adjectives as hyperbole. It originated among surfers in Hawaii and the West Coast before becoming a fad of the 1980s and early 1990s:
    • "Totally." Used by itself, it's an affirmation. It can also be used as an intensifier to an adjective, such as "totally radical."
    • "Radical" and its abbreviation "rad" mean that something is good, stylish or impressive.
    • "Sick" is analogous to "radical" but sees far greater usage nowadays.
    • "Awesome" is used identically to "radical," but is still in common usage.
    • "Righteous" is used identically to "radical"
    • "Tubular." Originally a description of an ideal wave to surf on, it briefly became an adjective for anything good or ideal.
    • "As if." Used as a response to a statement to express dubiousness or disagreement.
  • Cowboy slang is generally considered some of the most prototypically American:
    • "Tarnation" is a euphemism for "damnation" when used as profanity.
    • "Varmint" is a small creature or vermin
    • "Dogie" is a cow, usually a small or lost one.
    • "Sam Hill" is a euphemism for "hell," usually used in the phrase "What in Sam Hill..."