Cakes for breakfast (audio version)

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We’ve got another one … as DJ Khaled might say. Just kidding. Here’s another audio for you to practice your English listening skills with. This is based on the post “Cakes for breakfast” which you can read and listen to at the same time here. Take a listen and see what you can understand! Write about what you thought, or try to use these terms in your own sentences. Sound good? Enjoy!

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Isn’t that a question? (audio version)

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We’re back again! Here’s an audio recorded version of my original post “Isn’t that a question” where I go over a few English phrases or terms. Please take a listen and test how much you can understand! This page just contains the audio for listening, but you can follow this link to read and listen at the same time if you want. Let me know if this listening practice helped you to understand the words better. Is there something you want me to explain or record next? Tell me in the comments or send me an email! Ready? Happy listening!

isn’t that something?_how about that?_what do you know?_i’m telling you

Fun time shoes (audio version)

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Want to practice your English listening to an audio — or just hear a cool short story? Here is a quick listening practice where you can also learn some informal English terms. This is the audio version of my original written post “Fun time shoes” (you can read it here). Take a listen and see what you can comprehend! Also, post a comment below to share your thoughts. Was this helpful? Take care and thanks for listening!

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A handful (audio version)

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So I had the idea of recording some of the content here on CultSurf so that you could listen to it. If you’re learning English, you will now be able to listen to the stories and some of the content, and practice your listening skills as well! I will provide a link to the original story here so you can go back and read it in case you get lost. Thanks for listening, and remember to comment below. How did I do?

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Try a wild monster – “savage” “beast” “test -” “try-” meanings & uses

Words like savage and beast have been flying around on the internet and in music for a while now. Today, we’ll “test” our English by looking at those as well as some phrases that use test and try in the slang sense. We’ll also look at some dialogues with Charles to see how they can be used. Starting off!

(Don’t) Try

Try normally means “to attempt” to do something. For example, maybe you tried to learn how to play the piano like Mozart but never quite reached that level. In slang, try pretty much has the same sense as “to attempt,” with a small difference. If I say, “Try me,” it means to attempt to explain something to me. We can also say “try” to mean to attempt to do something bad or is a kind of bad behavior. Mom’s can tell their children, “Don’t try it,” which means the same as “Don’t do it.” “Don’t try me” then is like telling someone not to attempt something bad against you. Here’s an example:

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Charles —Hey, look at those two kids. They’ve been staring each other down for a few minutes now.

Sheila —They do look pretty angry. I wonder what their issue is.

The two teens suddenly start to argue with one another.

Teen 1 —What? You’re trying to come at me, huh? I’m not scared of you.

Teen 2 —Oh, you think you’re tough. I bet you won’t try to hit me, though. You’ve been trying me ever since I got here.

  • Teen 1 has been attempting to scare Teen 2 or be mean to him ever since he arrived.

Teen 1 —Ha! You’re the one who wanted to fight me. I see your fists are balled up. Don’t try it.

  • Don’t attempt anything bad or stupid (against me).

.

(Don’t) Test

Now, test you may know as an exam you sit and take to prove your knowledge. To “test” as a verb usually means to examine something or try a new experience. You can “test” a new flavor of ice cream, so it’s very similar to the word try. It’s the same way in slang, since “test” or “don’t test” can be used in the same way we saw “try” above. Another common phrase is to “test someone’s nerves.” This means to annoy someone, like you’re testing how much their brain can handle. I’ll save “nerves” for another day.

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Teen 2 —Look, don’t test me, bro. Today’s not a good day.

  • Don’t try to do anything bad or annoy me anymore.

Charles —Sheila, what are they fighting about, anyway?

Sheila — I don’t know. These kids are weird to me.

Charles —They must be mad for some reason. I mean, I doubt they just started an Old West showdown in the middle of the street for nothing.

Sheila —Well, all I know is that the one guy bumped into the other. He said, “Yo, I’m tired of you. You’ve been testing it all semester. Now I’m gonna beat you down.” Pretty much.

  • You’ve been pushing the limits, picking on me, being mean to me, all semester.

Charles —Wow. This is wild.

.

You tried it

Again, the same concept as before. This phrase applies after some bad, mean or undesirable action has already taken place. It’s usually used to discourage any more of those actions from happening.

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Charles —Look! I think they’re really gonna fight.

Teen 2 throws a punch at Teen 1’s head and misses.

Teen 1 —Woah, you tried it, huh? You don’t even know how to throw a punch.

  • You attempted something bad or foolish against me.

Teen 2 —I was just warming up. Wait...

Teen 2 throws another surprise punch and lands it. He hits Teen 1 in the face and makes him fall down. Everyone standing around them starts to talk and scream.

.

Savage – Beast

These are two very common slang terms these days, and for good reason. A savage and a beast normally are creatures that live in the wild. They act like monsters or ferocious animals and have no conscience or remorse. The same goes for the slang meaning. Calling someone a “savage” or “beast” is like saying they are really good at something, like they are the best at something. They dominate, they kill (which is another slang that means doing really well at something), and they do other things that we associate with savages and wild beasts. Of course, we mean it in a positive way, like we’re complimenting the other person.

Lots of people, especially in music and sports, consider themselves savages or beasts, just like Megan Thee Stallion. A similar term used is “monster,” which is also a positive compliment. Think of Kanye West (listen to Monster here). “Savage” can also mean doing things without caring about the consequences. Instead of being negative, it is almost used in admiration, like the other person is cool for being this way.

Sheila —Dang! Did you see that hit? Man, these kids are savage nowadays.

  • These kids are reckless, don’t care about consequences, but are kind of cool because of it.

Charles —Yeah, I know.

Teen 2 —That’s right! I’m a savage, you heard?

  • I’m the best. I’m reckless. I don’t care. But I’m really cool.

As everyone around yells and laughs, Teen 1 gets up and reaches out his hand.

Teen 1 —Yo. I got respect, bro. That was a good hit you got me with.

Teen 2 —Thanks.

Teen 1 —You know, I do MMA down at the gym. You would be a beast in the octagon if you wanted to fight with us.

  • You would be great, one of the best, a fearsome fighter.

Teen 2 —Sounds like a plan. I’ve always wanted to try out MMA fighting. Hey, are we cool?

Teen 1 —We cool.

Sheila —Aww. How cute! They made up.

.

Like with many slang words, savage and beast can be perceived as positive or negative, compliment or insult, depending on how they are used and depending on the speaker’s tone. Generally, these days they are used as compliments and are a way to show admiration for a person or for yourself, but there are always exceptions. Try and test are used usually in more intimate settings and you might say it with a friend, a family member, or another person that is trying to be mean or act badly in some way. Try/test it are acting badly in general situations, while try/test me is acting against you (or whoever is speaking). These terms can be a little tricky, so try to pay attention to cues from others and see how they use them. Otherwise, even if you don’t want to use them (I don’t use these terms too often) you will at least be able to understand when other English speakers say them. Someone definitely will.

Hey everyone! Could you use these terms in your own sentences? In what other situations could you imagine someone saying these? Have you heard these terms in English-language songs? Let me know in the comments! If you have suggestions for words or phrases that you would like explained, tell me here or send me an email: tietewaller@gmail.com. Thanks and take care!

Not smart inferno – “hell -” “hella” “dumb” “mad” meanings & uses

Today I’m going to explain using the words hell (as in hell yes/no), hella, and dumb and mad as modifying adjectives. As before, I’ll give example dialogues using Charles as our main character. Ready? Here it is.

1. Hell

H-E-double hockey sticks. So here, we’re not talking about that terrible place of punishment underground where the world’s most evil folks go to burn for eternity … though, that is the origin. Hell is such a bad place that it turned into a curse word. Examples of this are “go to hell,” or “what the hell?” These uses are still very common in English, though by most they aren’t seen as curses anymore. Over time, and with uses like “hot as hell,” or “big as hell,” that word became a synonym for “very/really.” So, when we start to use “hell” to negate something or assert something, it has the effect of a big YES or a big NO. Check this out:

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Charles— Hey, bro. You wanna go to Big Berry with me?

Jonah— Huh? What the hell is a “big berry”?

  • A general curse of confusion.

C— You haven’t heard? Big Berry is an amusement park. You want to go with me? I have season tickets.

J— What do you mean, “do I want to go?” Hell yeah! I love roller coasters.

  • An excited assertion, a big YES.

C— Sweet! I do too. They have some really big rides there, I think, the biggest in the country.

J— Right? And their elevator drop ride goes high as hell. And you got season passes? Oh, we’re gonna have some fun.

  • “As hell” meaning very or really.

.

2. Hella

Another variation of hell is “hella.” I have no idea where this comes from, but it pretty much has the same meaning as “as hell.” So when you hear it, it’s usually used to say very or really. Some examples from pop culture are “hella good” and “hella cheddar (money).”

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J— What day do you wanna go? Maybe next week is better.

C— I mean, we can go this Saturday if you want.

J— Hell nah! I’m not going to an amusement park on a Saturday.

  • A strong negation, a big NO. “Nah” is another way to pronounce “no” in some accents.

C— Why? Isn’t it more fun on the weekends? That’s when all the people go.

J— Exactly. Trust me, you do not want to sit in some hella long line all day trying to get on one ride. Forget that. Let’s go on the Monday after next.

  • As you can see, “hella” here just means really. “Really long line.”

C— Why then?

J— They’re doing maintenance on the classrooms that day, so we don’t have class.

.

3. Dumb, Mad (very)

These two words usually have a negative meaning, as you can imagine. But, we can also use these words to mean “very” or “really” in an exaggerated way, almost like saying “super.”

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C— Well, that makes sense. It’s just so far away. I was looking forward to going this weekend.

J— It’ll be better on the other Monday anyway since fall is coming. If we went this weekend, it’d be mad hot. You don’t wanna wait in a line when it’s 90 degrees out, do you?

  • A strong REALLY. “Really hot.”

C— Nah, you’re right. It’s better to stay inside. Or better yet, we could get a frozen lemonade. You know Chick-fil-A has some good ones.

J— Oh yeah! There’s one right down the street too. Their lemonades are dumb good, and ice cold too. Great idea!

  • In the same way, “dumb” here means really. “Really good.”

.

You’ll notice you can use both “dumb” and “mad” in positive or negative situations. Either way, they add big emphasis to the word really, almost like saying “super.”

*Cultural note: “Hell,” “hella,” and other words like it are pretty common in today’s English, although for some religious people it can still be interpreted as a curse (bad) word. “Mad” and “dumb” are usually not offensive, but the tone of voice and context matter. For example, you don’t want to direct these at a specific person or it could sound like you are calling them “dumb.” Also, all of these words are hella informal, so you don’t want to use them in formal settings or with people you should respect, like someone’s parents. Of course, pay attention to social cues. If other people are using them, it’s a good signal that you can in that situation too.

Can you think of your own sentences using today’s words? Do you think it’s offensive to say “hell” or “dumb”? In what situations have you heard these words being used? Tell me in the comments! I can also give you a personal explanation by email! I’m always open to explaining more and hearing what you want to learn. tietewaller@gmail.com

Shooting the buzz bang – “hit” “rock” “hit me up” “bang” and more, meanings & uses

Today’s terms: hit / slam / bang / rock / hit me up / give a ring, buzz / shoot a message

No, I’m trying to get you to meet my buddy. He’s a producer.

Jonah was trying enthusiastically to calm Charles down on their way to the music studio.

—Come on, man. You know I don’t like to be around these kinds of people. I get nervous.

Jonah reassured him; —Yeah, Mike is a real scary kind of guy. A real gangster off the streets! Come on, bro. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll hold your hand.

Charles tapped Jonah’s hand away as he reached for it.

—Nobody likes sarcasm, bro, Charles protested.

—Everybody does!

Eventually, they drove up to the studio parking lot. There were a group of teenagers smoking in the front, maybe add the smell of spilled liquor on the floor. Everyone looked calm but suspicious. Although, when they saw it is Jonah, they all smiled and signaled “hello” to him.

—What’s up everybody! Are y’all rocking today?

Everyone nodded, made mumble sounds, and they turned back to their joints. Charles gave them a shy nod. Then the two friends strolled inside.

Once inside the studio, there were strong musical beats coming from all over the place. Smooth instrumentals blended with fast rhythms. The noise was chaotic but artful, all the same. Jonah saw one of his colleagues coming towards them.

Yo, my brotha! What’s happening with ya? Y’all just got all the beats banging today.

—Well, you know how I rock, Jonah. Who’s your friend?

Charles felt a quick pain in his belly.

—Oh, my name’s Charles. What’s up?

The man reached out his hand and gave Charles a mixed handshake and hug in a friendly manner.

—Classic Mike. Gotta show them love. This is my buddy, Charles. He comes from another country, but he knows a lot of English.

—He seems like he can handle his business, isn’t that right, Charles!

They all laughed for a few seconds. Charles then spoke up.

—Yeah, I get by pretty well out here. I just didn’t understand when you said “banging” and “rock.” I didn’t really get it.

—No prob, man. Banging is what I say when something is really good, especially when it comes to music. I can say, “This song bangs.” It’s the same with Hit or Slam for something that’s really good, like a piece of music, some good food, or even a cute girl, for example. All my music slams and hits.

Charles was reminded.

—Oh, right. You are the producer!

Correct-o! But that’s different from banging, like to be a part of a gang. I don’t bang. But, those kids outside, I don’t know. All of them look like they bang. Now, Rock is basically the same thing. If something rocks, that means it’s really good, amazing. And what’s cool is you can rock something, like a song, a test, or a sport. It all means that you do really good in it.

—Yeah, my buddy Mike here rocks as a producer, by the way, Jonah added in.

As they talked, a young lady appeared from one of the recording booths and made her way towards the exit.

—Sheila?

She turned around. Yep, it was the same Sheila that Charles had been out with.

—Charles! Woah, I didn’t know you were into music.

Charles puffed up his chest.

—Oh, yeah. I’m really into music. Recording, he coughs, Really into recording. What do you do here?

—I’m a singer, remember? I thought I told you when we were texting a few days back.

Charles scratched his head.

—Anyway, I gotta go. Nice seeing you here! Exciting, am I right? Hit me up tonight, okay?

In a hurry, Sheila left from the studio and into her busy life. Charles looked confused.

—Why did she want me to hit her up? Is that, like, sexual?

Jonah and Mike stormed with laughter.

—You wish!

Jonah then explained.

Hit me up, man! It means the same as “send me a message,” or “give me a call.” It’s not sexual at all. Well, I guess not.

Mike added, —Yeah, it’s the same as saying give me a ring, shoot me a message, or give me a buzz. It all means “call me” or “message me.”

—Oh, I guess that makes sense.

—Charlie’s got a girlfriend!

All three of them laughed and pushed each other around playfully. Oh, guys.

—So, are you gonna hit her up tonight? Jonah asked Charles.

—You know I will!

Despite his outward confidence, Charles still felt pretty nervous. Not to mention guilty, having forgotten so quickly that Sheila was a singer. He dug for a little more information.

—So, Mike. Sheila records her songs here?

—Yeah. Just a few samples for SoundCloud. Why?

—Is she any good?

—For sure, bro! Sheila slams in the recording booth!

Saying that something slams, hits, or bangs is saying it’s really good to the senses (That food looks slamming! That rhythm hits hard! This song is banging!) These are more colloquial slang, so not all communities across the country use them. Otherwise, “hit me up,” “give me a buzz/ring,” and “shoot me a message” are all pretty common nationwide to tell someone to send you a message or to call, though these terms are very informal. Using “bang” to talk about being in a gang can be a problematic word, so I underlined it. It’s best not to use it unless you really know what you’re saying, and most people don’t even have to use it. Do you know why the other terms are underlined? Can you use today’s terms in your own sentences? Share with me down below!

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference. Did you recognize the mistakes in this story?

Candy raw go sick – “dope” “sick” “sweet” and more, meanings & uses

Today’s terms: dope / sick / ill / raw / sweet

Charlie. What’s up! You have a ride?

Charles looked at his friend, Jonah, rolling by in an old car. Not old and ugly, broken, or raggedy. Jonah took good care of his car, a vintage antique from times long passed, an age that has long been forgotten.

—No, dude. You know I ride the bus everywhere.

—Agh, that’s too bad!

Jonah revved up his engine as if he were about to speed away and leave Charles behind. Before he could go five feet, he hit the break, shifted gears, then reversed.

—You know I couldn’t leave you behind like that, poor thing. Get in.

Charles shrugged his shoulders and got into the car.

—Sorry for hesitating. I was waiting for you to open my door for me.

—Ha! Don’t push your luck.

They went along in the car, not rushing or anything, just cruising. After all, they had nowhere to go. A traffic light quickly turned red without showing yellow first. Jonah screeched to a stop, passed the crosswalk, then scooted back again. While they were stopped at the light he looked into his car mirrors.

—Yo, Charles … You see them?

He nodded in the direction of the corner where there were a couple of young ladies waiting to cross. Charles looked quickly at them, then away, hoping they didn’t notice him. Jonah smoothly turned the dial on his car radio and found a station he liked. Suddenly a loud song with deep bass and a quick rhythm started to burst out of his speakers. The ladies got kind of nervous and secured their purses. The light turned green and Jonah pressed on the gas again.

—What was that all about? Charles asked his friend.

—I was trying to impress those girls, man. Didn’t you see them?

—Yeah. But I don’t think it worked.

Jonah laughed.

—Well, you don’t know.

They rode for a little while longer, enjoying the music. Well, Jonah was loving it, but Charles’s ears were starting to hurt, if I’m being honest.

—Oh! This is my song. The beat is so sick! You’ve heard this one, right?

No answer. Charles was quite confused.

—You haven’t heard this? It’s too dope.

—Bro. What in the world are you talking about?

—You know what I mean by “dope?

Charles gave a look like he needed a bit more explanation. Jonah turned the volume down.

Dope, man. It means really cool, like, “That song is dope!” I love that song. And it’s the same with sick. I don’t mean sick with the flu, with corona, you know. I mean it’s really cool.

—Hmm, I guess it makes sense.

—I could say the same with ill. Ill means sick in bed anyway, but I can use it to talk about something that’s really cool, real good, like that song. Raw is the same. Not raw, like uncooked food. But raw like, “Bro, the beat on this song is raw!”

—I don’t know why being sick and raw turned into being cool, but that’s language, huh?

Sure is.

Another car passed them by. It had a red body, spinner rims, and bottom lights; it must have been brand new.

—Woah, that is a sweet car, my dude.

—I don’t know how you can taste a car. Does it have candy in the exhaust pipe?

Jonah smiled and tapped his friend on the back of the neck.

—Not that kind of sweet! Sweet is the same as dope. It means I want about five of those awesome cars for myself.

—I never knew there were so many ways to say something is cool.

There’s probably many more, my friend. Just learn as you go.

Charles nodded and agreed.

—Hey, who’s that girl you met that one time? She tell you her name yet?

—Oh, uh … You mean Sheila. Why? You feel like taking me to her place?

Jonah thought for a minute.

—Eh, why not. But when you get your license you’ll have to drive her around in your dope new ride.

—If you could give me a loan, that would be sweet!

Jonah rolled his eyes and revved his engine again.

—So, funny man, what’s her address?

Charles paused and realized something.

—Oh, crap.

  • Like in many other languages, there are lots of ways to express that something is cool, interesting, or that you really like it. You don’t have to use all of these expressions above to express that idea, but use one that you feel comfortable with. Saying “dope” and “sweet” usually feels more relaxed, while saying “sick,” “ill,” or “raw” feel more excited or enthusiastic. So, it depends on the personality of the speaker. Do you now understand how to use these words? Give me some example sentences in the comments!

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference. Did you recognize the mistakes in this story?

Cash apology – “sorry” and slang terms for “money” meanings & uses

Terms: sorry / for money (cash, bricks, bands, bag, dough, etc.)

I sure like counting all this money.

Charles had his hands full of dollars of the U.S. variety. Not because he was rich, no! Are you crazy?

—It must be fun to work in the financial department. You get to take that money home and count it? Touch all on it. Dang, sounds like heaven to me!

Jonah was watching him with a hunger.

—Can I just touch one … well, a couple of them?

—No, Sir-ee! This is not my money, bro. If it was I wouldn’t let you touch it, either, but my life is on the line if I get fired. Sorry, can’t do it.

—Well! I don’t know why you work at that sorry theater on the side. If I was you, I’d be happy to sit here and count money all day.

Charles looked around at the blank white walls, felt the absence of an air conditioner, heard the BLUGUG of a bubble descend from their giant jug of nasty water.

—I would die if I worked here all the time. The theater is a good distraction. Plus, I like drama.

—Heck, there’s plenty of drama right here on campus.

They both laughed at that fact.

—Hey, what did you mean by “sorry?” I didn’t get why you would apologize for me working with plays.

Jonah scratched his chin.

—No, bro. Sorry, as an adjective. It just means that something sucks, basically. It’s low quality, not good. Like if you buy a car that’s old and raggedy and is halfway falling apart. That’s a “sorry” car. Look at me, sounding all smart!

—Uh-huh. Thanks for the clarification, said Charles.

Fasho. Yeah, man. I was you, I would stay here and count stacks all day. Maybe slip a wad into my pocket.

Charles’s fingers stopped moving. His eyes tilted up. What did that guy just say?

—Guy, what did you just say? Stack? Wad? What in the world?

Jonah jumped up eagerly.

—Oh man, I’m about to learn you! I mean, teach you, of course. Look, Charlie; stacks and wad are both money. You ever seen a stack of something? Pancakes, maybe? Well, replace the pancakes with bills and that’s how you get “stacks.” As for wad, you just need to picture a handful of cash. Wad can be a small bundle of anything, though. Cash, you probably know, is money too. Hehe.

—Yeah, Charles said, —I knew cash. That’s the only one I knew, actually. What other words do you all have for money?

His fingers went to counting the dollars again. Jonah continued to rant excitedly about his favorite topic.

—Oh, that’s easy! I said stacks, so you got racks and bricks if you’re really making money. “Racks” are like shelves, so I guess if you made racks, you could just stack them on a big shelf. “Bricks” are like those red things you use to build a house, but they’re thick like a stack of money. What else? You got bands, figures, green. “Green” is obvious, ‘cus of the color. “Figures” mean digits. If you make 5 figures, that’s making a five-digit salary. Anywhere between 10,000 and 99,999. Same for 6 figures, 10 figures, and so on. A band is a thousand bucks, and bucks are money. You have to hold a thousand together with a rubber band, which is probably why they call it that. Same with a grand, or a G for short. That means a thousand bucks too. You probably have a few “G’s” in your hands right now!

Charles bulged his eyes.

—Wow, that is a lot. Any more?

Jonah continued, —Let’s see. You got loot, dough… “Loot” used to be treasure for pirates in the old days. “Dough” is what you make bread out of. Oh, and bread is another one. Hmm, guap and cheese are money, and bank is if you make a bunch of money. Like, “I made bank today.” “Cheese” like cheese slices at the grocery store. Some people say cheddar to be more specific. “Guap,” I don’t know. It sounds like guapo, or “handsome” in Spanish. Maybe like a handsome sum of money? Who knows. And don’t forget the bag. If you get “the bag,” you’re making good money. And … that’s all I got.*

Charles’s face fell stunned.

—Wow, you are an expert in something. I just can’t believe there are so many words for… and he waved a fistful of cash.

Jonah paused.

Never thought about it. I blame rap music. So, how many bands you got?

Charles checked.

—Let me see… There are about 5 G’s right here. I only got through this one stack.

—Well, you better start counting!

Charles laughed.

—I would if someone didn’t keep distracting me! And you’re right; all this money does make my other job look sorry.

Jonah chuckled and put his baseball cap on.

—That’s okay. I hear actors and playwrights get bank too.

.

  • With so many ways to talk about money, it can be hard to choose which word to use! Some words like cash are more common overall. Other words are used in more specific situations. For example, bag or bank are more common when talking about making money, while G’s and bands are for talking about quantities of money. When in doubt, use the words you hear being used most around you. I sure don’t use all of these on a daily basis! What is your favorite money slang?

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference.

Very manly family – “my dude” “bro” “son” and more, meanings & uses

Terms: my guy / my dude / bro / bruh / son

Rip. Scribble. Check. Pass.

These were normal work days for Charles. His life was not any more exciting than a stone’s on an average day. At work, it was at least half of the usual. Paintings had more fun hanging on white walls than Charles did at work. Old sneakers had more fun being trodden through the mud on a cold day than Charles did at work. Even the little fruit flies taunted him as they buzzed after each other in the dead-air room; a financial office at a small community college waiting to be demolished and replaced by new facilities.

Yes, I understand … Okay … But what would you like to do, Sir?

I just really want to get a loan, man. I was hoping you’d help me out with it.

A fellow student, small and muscular, was asking Charles about his options for paying for his upcoming classes. The student really needed a break, but the school’s policy was strict. The situation was leaving him quite irritated.

Charles told him, —I can’t give you a loan this semester because you still owe money from your past classes.

Come on, my guy. Are you for real? I really can’t have just one little loan this time? Man, what the hell?

Really, Sir, I cannot …

You sure? ‘Cus I bet you can’t even read them pages right.

The student was referring to Charles’s accent, assuming he couldn’t read since his English wasn’t totally natural.

Hey, bro, you need to back up. We’re all in line here. Just let the man do his job.

His job—!

But before the small angry student could finish, another larger student calmly grabbed his backpack and shoved him out of the line. The smaller student made a quick gesture to scare the bigger student, but he noticed he would enter into a fight he couldn’t win. He walked away after sucking his teeth and hit the bare office wall hard, one time.

Thanks for getting him out of here, Charles told the big man.

Hey, my grandparents were immigrants. I couldn’t let him disrespect you like that.

Charles took advantage of their conversation to ask a question.

He was pretty mad, but I noticed he called me his “guy.” Is that a bad thing? Because it sounds like he wants me to be his man.

This comment made everybody in the sweaty office laugh; one girl in the back laughed a little too hard.

That was funny, I’m sorry. No, he wasn’t asking you to be “his guy.” It’s just an expression. It’s how you might refer to someone you’re speaking to. Hey, my guyMy dude is another good one that’s used the same. There are some other more derogatory ones, but these two are good to use with anybody.

But he also called me bro, like his brother. Is that right?

The big student scratched his chin hairs for a minute, then said;

Oh. Well, bro is short for “brother,” but it’s the same as with “my guy.” You can use it with any man, doesn’t have to be your real brother. Some people, like me, put more of an “uhhhh” sound to it. Like, bruh. “What’s up, bruh? Wanna buy me a Coke?”

Charles smiled.

I get it now.

Yo, are we still in the classroom? I ain’t got all day, son.

Another student was being impatient and yelled out from his point in line. His comment made the big man turn his head and look at Charles who was staring at him, again, confused.

And that’s another one! Son. And no, he’s not calling you his actual son …

Sure ain’t! the loud-mouthed student replied again.

Charles had a jump on the meaning, though.

Son. It’s the same as calling me “guy” or “bro.” Or “bruh,” even. They’re all the same. Cool alternatives to “man.”

The big guy tapped Charles on the shoulder happily.

You got it! So, uh, bruh, can you help me with a payment plan for the next two semesters?

Then the loud mouth, —Yeah, me too, my dude!

Charles smiled at the fact that even within that hot, boring, smelly box of an office, he could turn his gruesome job into an exciting real-world English lesson. In addition, he was now able to understand all this action coming at him at once. He ruffled some papers and answered his schoolmates;

Sure! One financial plan coming up, bro.

  • Calling men “my guy,” “bro,” and “son” is very informal, and we usually use it with people of a similar or lesser age to us or with friends, not in formal situations! Do you think you could use these words correctly with a friend of yours? Tell me what you think!

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference.