Americanisms: The long and short of it! (Part II)

Our language has a battery of Americanisms. 'Hey dude, that's cool!' 'My car has run out of gas', 'Oh yeah'. You might be using some of them at this very moment!
Picking up from where we left last time, we move on to commonplace speech and usage among Americans. Let's get familiar with some phrases, references and proverbs that you might not have come across, but are very much a part of the average American's everyday communication.

  1. Just give me the bottom line - Don't bother with a lot of details, just give me the essential information.
  2. There's more than one way to skin a cat - There are several ways to tackle a problem.
  3. Six of one, half dozen of another - It really doesn't matter how you look at it, it is the same any which way.
  4. She's down in the dumps today - She's feeling sad or depressed.
  5. It's time to face the music - It's time to deal with a situation, or take responsibility for your actions.
  6. Time is on our side - We have enough time to accomplish what we need.
  7. We are on the same wavelength - We are thinking the same way about something, we are in agreement, we think alike.
  8. Here's one for the circular file - Circular file refers to the trashcan and phrase refers to something not worth keeping.
  9. Give me the whole kit and caboodle - I want all the details
  10. We're getting down to the wire - We're getting close to the deadline; our time is running short.
  11. It's a walk in the park - It's something that's easy to accomplish.
  12. He doesn't let any grass grow under his feet - He is a high-energy, motivated individual who is always on the go.
  13. Time is money - Reflects the American obsession with time and money and means to quit dawdling and get to work.
  14. You can't get there from here - Your plan doesn't make sense and won't succeed.
  15. We'll have them eating out of our hand - We'll have total control of the situation.

Born in the USA.
Some words that were first uttered in the US of A. Check out how they came into being.
Hunky dory 
To be okay, everything is fine.
According to Ron Akers, Huncho-dori was a major street in Yokohama that was frequented by American sailors on leave during WWI. To be in Huncho-dori was to be enjoying leisure activities, and having a good time. Alternatively, The archaic English word 'hunk' meant 'goal' and is probably derived from the Dutch 'honk' also meaning 'goal'. To have reached one's goal is to be satisfied and happy.
Eg: If you would only pay heed to my advice, everything would be hunky dory.
Drop a dime 
Make a phone call.
Pay phones cost around 35 cents today in the US, but they really did cost 10 cents at one time. The word is likely to have originated from the action of dropping a dime into the slot of the pay phone.
Eg: We should keep in touch. Drop a dime some time.
Keeping up with the Jones's 
Trying to maintain an appearance of affluence and wealth.
Jones is a very common surname in the United States and in this phrase is a generic term for the neighbors. (It plays on the phrase "keeping up with the neighbors".) It is a common practice in the suburbs for neighbors to be fiercely competitive and to continually try to have the nicest house, lawn etc. in the neighborhood.
"Keeping up with the Joneses" was the title of a comic strip that ran in many US newspapers from 1914 to 1958 by Arthur R ("Pop") Morand. The strip chronicled his experiences living in the suburbs.Eg: Her hotheaded desire to keep up with the Joneses did cost her a lot of money.
Other familiar colloquialisms you are sure to bump into.

  1. 'To put in' would mean to submit something. (She put in her papers and walked out of her only job.)
  2. 'Step on the gas' is to push the accelerator. (He wouldn't have made it to the hospital on time, if Jeff hadn't stepped on the gas and jumped the lights.)
  3. Trains have no 'coaches' or 'boggies' only 'carriages' or 'boxes'.
  4. 'I don't know nothing' - two negatives don't make a positive here.
  5. You don't pull the switch down to turn on the light, rather you flick it up.
  6. You can quench your thirst with 'sodas' and not 'soft drinks'.
  7. You don't stand in a 'queue', you are in a 'line'.
  8. You have to refer to a deaf person as someone with 'impaired hearing' or you might be considered awfully rude. Likewise, there are no 'lunatics', only 'mentally challenged people'. And you are not be called a 'short person' you are a 'vertically challenged person'.
  9. The next time you do your grocery shopping, do not ask for brinjal but for 'egg plant'. Also there is no vegetable called lady's finger, its Okra!