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Stock American Phrases

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"Gawd dammit!"
Pvt Hank The Yank, Adventures In The Rifle Brigade

Phrases often used by Americans in fiction, especially of the stereotypical kind. 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.
  • "Guy" is analogous in usage to the above two, though it is mostly relegated to New England and more specifically to blue-collar townies.
  • "Bro" is another "dude" analogue, typically associated with black Americans and more generally New Yorkers, but is now general-use.
  • "Dawg", yet another "dude" analog, also associated with black Americans and also skateboarders.
  • 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.
    • "Bye-bye" is typically associated with children; saying it to an adult can come across as condescending, and most adults who do say it to other adults are using it in a deliberately hostile, insulting, or mocking manner.
    • "See you (around/soon)," "see you later," "see you", "later", and "peace" are all more informal versions of "goodbye". (And the "you" is often pronounced "ya" as in "See ya".)
    • "Smell you later" (or "Smell ya later") is a very informal and facetious variant of the above. Using it in a social situation that calls for any level of etiquette or formality is not recommended.
  • Greetings:
    • "How are you?", "How you doing?"note , and "How's it going?"note : 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. Sometimes shortened to "What up?" or "'Sup?" (The apostrophe is pronounced with a subdued "t" sound.)
    • "Hey" by itself is a very informal greeting and can be considered somewhat rude, especially when used with your elders or social betters.
    • "Hiya" is also informal, and at least moderately friendly.
    • "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.
    • "Where you at?" is also a common New York greeting, though it is generally uttered in a somewhat more brusque fashion (owing to the relatively fast-paced nature of New York City English and its ambiguously aggressive tone).
    • "Yo" is commonly associated with blue-collar New Yorkers and Philadelphians (and less commonly South Jersey) 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.
    • "Awright awready", or "alright already" said in a Noo Yawk accent. Generally also means "shut up" or "stop talking", usually either in response to a Motor Mouth or a large amount of chatter when trying to get a word in, especially when another speaker is obviously going to ask a question or state a point but is belaboring it with a long-winded story or irrelevant information.
  • "And shit" is a rather vulgar general extender and occasional sentence-ender when the speaker wants to indicate that a list or category continues on in a similar fashion and doesn't wish to belabor it.
    • "N'at" ("and that") is its more family-friendly Pittsburghese counterpart and is used in the exact same context. Like "yinz", it smooths out to "and that" as you head away from the Pittsburgh area.
  • "You know" (or "y'know"; also "know what I mean", "nahmean", or "know'm sayin'", which are analogous) is another informal sentence-ender/conjunction. It's even used on This Very Wiki, y'know?
  • "Jagoff" is Pittsburghese for an undesirable person, though it can also be used as a rough but good-natured epithet for one's friends. Elsewhere in the United States, "jack-off" or "jerk-off" only refers to a person the speaker views with contempt (e.g., "That jack-off stole my wallet!") or as a synonym for masturbation. Compare "wank/wanker" for those across the pond.
  • "Deadass" is a New York City expression of adamant seriousness and a testament to veracity; it originated from the phrase "dead ass serious" and was originally associated with black New Yorkers, but has long since permeated the greater cultural consciousness.
  • "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 (or baseball players for one of the MLB teams in New York). 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 a Northeasterner. To a Northeasterner, 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.
    • "For days" (often pronounced "fuh daze") is a New England-specific signification of abundance, though it is placed after the topic ("lines of people for days").
  • "Jawn" is an almost exclusively Philadelphian and Southern New Jersey all-purpose placeholder noun that is used for any noun that the speaker either can't think of or doesn't feel like saying.
    • "Da kine" ("the thing") is a Hawaii Pidgin phrase that, like "jawn", is a placeholder noun, with the only real difference being that "da kine" is typically more contextual, whereas "jawn" can be said at any time, anywhere, for anything.
  • "Sure" affirming a choice, alternative is "ok". Used as a less direct form of Yes. "Okeydokey" is also fairly common, and also as a nonchalant response to something strange happening or being said.
  • 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.
    • "Hella" is an intensifier that is roughly analogous to New England's "wicked" or New York's "mad". Originated in Northern California before proliferating throughout the state.
    • "Gnarly" is a general intensifier which relies on context to tell if it's meant positively or negatively. Even when it's meant positively, it often has connotations of "this was hard but in a fun way".
    • "Grody" derisively refers to something filthy, disgusting, or badly unkempt or neglected, or more generally of extremely poor quality or of suspicious character.
  • Cowboy slang is generally considered some of the most prototypically American:
    • "Tarnation" is a euphemism for "damnation" when used as profanity. Commonly used in the expression "What in tarnation...?"
    • "Varmint" is a small creature or vermin
    • "Dogie" is a cow, usually a small or lost one, as in "Git along, little dogie.".
    • "Sam Hill" is a euphemism for "hell," usually used in the phrase "What in Sam Hill..."
  • Another point to remember is that in a lot of accents and informal voices, the "g" in words that end in "-ing" (such as gerunds and progressive-tense verbs) isn't always pronounced. This is represented in writing by replacing the "g" with an apostrophe.
  • "Bless your/his/her heart" is a phrase heard among religious Southerners. Originally an expression of pity, nowadays it's just as likely to be politely snarky mock-pity or Condescending Compassion. Can also be used for gratitude, if something "blessed my heart".