37 coisas que os americanos fazem que confundem o resto do mundo (traduzido)

Existe o jeito americano … e aí tem o do resto do mundo.

*Traduzido do artigo original por Beth Anne Macaluso, Adam Schubak e Kara Ladd 25 de junho de 2018

Esse post é uma tradução desde o inglês do artigo na revista Redbook ou redbookmag.com (clique aqui para o original). É uma espécie de olhar casual para alguns costumes que fazem sentido nos Estados Unidos, mas talvez não em algumas outras partes do mundo. Alguns deles não são exclusivamente americanos, mas podem ser característicos do povo ou da vida norte-americanos. Tem várias coisas consideradas boas e ruins, e achei uma avaliação honesta, sendo eu um deles. Também há muitas semelhanças entre os costumes dos EUA e dos brasileiros, que achei interessantes! Leia você mesmo e aproveite!

*I entered into contact with writer Adam Schubak for permission on this translation. Please contact me for any other rights concerns: tietewaller@gmail.com

Embora rir alto e pegar um café para viagem façam parte da vida cotidiana da maioria dos americanos, para outros é totalmente estranho – e até mesmo grosseiro. Essas são todas as práticas comuns e normas culturais em nossa sociedade que o resto do mundo não compartilha.

TOMAR CAFÉ NA CORRIDA

A Starbucks pode estar em todos os quarteirões do mundo, mas isso não significa que as pessoas em outros países bebam da mesma forma que nós. A maioria dos costumes internacionais sobre o café tem mais a ver com o ritual comunitário de compartilhar uma xícara em uma cafeteria com amigos, enquanto os americanos optam pela alternativa menos ecológica – uma xícara extragrande de papel e plástico para viagem.

USAR MOEDA DE UMA ÚNICA COR

Os dólares americanos podem ser poderosos, mas mesmo assim faltam uma certa graça. O desenho verde e preto é bastante chato (embora prático) em comparação com nossas contrapartes culturais que têm notas com todas as cores do arco-íris – algumas até com enfeites metálicos!

TAMANHO SUPER-SIZE EM TUDO

Os Estados Unidos têm três tamanhos: grande, maior, e maior possível – de refrigerantes superdimensionados a banquetes indulgentes. O país até glorifica os restaurantes que têm as maiores comidas (sundaes, hambúrgueres, você escolhe!), Enquanto outras partes do mundo normalmente valorizam a qualidade em vez da quantidade.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels

PERSONALIZAR PEDIDOS NOS RESTAURANTES

Em algumas culturas estrangeiras que se orgulham de sua culinária, é considerada uma falta de educação pedir condimentos para ajustar sua refeição ao gosto. Solicitar uma garrafa de ketchup ou sal que ainda não está na mesa vai levar uma grande estranhamento do seu garçom. Se você está preocupado em evitar um mico ao comer fora, não é uma má ideia retocar a etiqueta em restaurantes estrangeiros antes da viagem pro exterior.

PEDIR FAZER QUENTINHO

Pedir uma caixa para fazer quentinho no final da refeição é tão estranho quanto pedir ketchup. Pode parecer terrível deixar comida ir pro lixo, mas muitos restaurantes europeus torcem o nariz para a ideia de levar comida de viagem – na opinião deles, é um risco para a saúde que poderia levar à intoxicação alimentar. Apesar da atitude local, a França tentou reduzir o desperdício de comida, tornando ilegal que os restaurantes neguem fazer quentinhos, se solicitados.

REQUER UM MONTE DE GELO

Colocar gelo em tudo é principalmente uma coisa dos EUA. Muitos países estrangeiros pensam no gelo como algo que deixa a bebida toda aguada, além de ter origens questionáveis. Um escritor do Smithsonian afirma que não se trata tanto de uma aversão estrangeira pelo gelo, mas apenas de uma obsessão americana por ele.

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

DAR UMA JOINHA

Há até um emoji para isso, mas o gesto de afirmação de dar um polegar para cima não é universal. Na verdade, é o mesmo que levantar o dedo médio em lugares como Austrália, Grécia e Oriente Médio. Provavelmente, é melhor usar apenas suas palavras – especialmente em transações comerciais.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

PAGAR IMPOSTO DE VENDAS

Os estrangeiros que vêm aos EUA para aproveitar um pouco de terapia de compras geralmente são alertados quando percebem que os preços não são bem o que parecem. Em outros países, os impostos são refletidos no preço do item que você está comprando. A ideia de imposto sobre vendas que é aplicado no caixa não é a norma mundial.

FAZER UMA WORLD SERIES (SÉRIE MUNDIAL)

Todo mês de outubro, nossas equipes de beisebol competem no campeonato da World Series. Chamamos isso de “Série Mundial”, mas somos o único país que participa além de uma única equipe canadense. O fato de considerarmos nosso time o melhor do mundo em uma competição que não opera internacionalmente é desconcertante para os estrangeiros. Então, por que é chamado assim? De acordo com a NPR (Rádio Pública Nacional), pode ter começado apenas como uma jogada de marketing.

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

REFERIR A NÓS MESMOS SIMPLESMENTE COMO AMÉRICA

Às vezes, parece que esquecemos que os EUA não são os únicos do mundo. Na verdade, é considerado politicamente incorreto na América do Sul chamar os EUA de apenas América. Na verdade, existe um site inteiro dedicado a explicar esse erro comum.

CONSUMIR COISAS FEITAS DE ABÓBORA

Por falar nas obsessões dos EUA, nosso fascínio por abóboras também foi questionado. O resto do mundo os vê apenas como mais um membro da família de legumes, mas esperamos tudo com sabor de abóbora assim que o outono chegar. Esse pandemônio de abóbora no país pode nunca atingir o mesmo nível fora dos EUA, mas alguns lugares estão começando a ceder.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

USANDO NOTAS DE DINHEIRO IDÊNTICAS

Estamos vivendo na era da impressão 3D e, ainda assim, nosso papel-moeda é tudo idéntico. Nossas notas permanecem com a mesma cor verde e tamanho padrão desde 1929. Da mesma forma, nosso hábito de andar sem dinheiro e optar por pagar com cartão é igualmente intrigante para nossos amigos estrangeiros.

ESCREVER A DATA FORA DE ORDEM

Os EUA sempre têm que ser diferentes, mesmo quando se trata de algo tão simples como escrever a data. Aqui é normalmente escrito como “Mês-Dia-Ano”, mas na maioria dos outros lugares o escreve como “Dia-Mês-Ano”. Nossa razão para fazer isso permanece um mistério, mas a revista The Guardian pensou em algumas teorias.

FAZER CHÁS DE BEBÊ

Temos grande febre do bebê nos EUA, desde o anúncio inicial da gravidez até o nascimento. Para nós, os chás de bebê parecem comuns, mas não são realmente uma tradição em outras partes do mundo. Alguns até consideram má sorte comemorar um bebê antes de nascer. E já que estamos no assunto de comemorar …

ABRIR PRESENTES NA FRENTE DO DOADOR

É sempre legal receber um presente. Embora possa parecer educado abrir um presente na frente do doador para agradecê-lo pessoalmente, não funciona assim em todos os lugares. Em algumas culturas asiáticas, é considerado má educação abrir os presentes imediatamente após recebê-los; você pode realmente ser visto como ganancioso por fazer isso.

Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

FESTAS COM COPINHOS VERMELHOS

Esse não é tanto um costume estranho, mas apenas uma associação cultural engraçada. A ideia de ir a uma festa e beber de copos vermelhos é vista pelo resto do mundo como algo muito americano. Isso tem muito a ver com Hollywood usá-los consistentemente em cenas de festa. Os copos são um grampo cultural nas festas temáticas-norte-americanas realizadas no mundo afora.

Photo by Tea Oebel from Pexels

PRECISAR ESPAÇO PESSOAL

Amamos nosso espaço pessoal aqui nos EUA. A invasão desse espaço numa situação social (especialmente com um estranho) deixa os americanos desconfortáveis e às vezes é vista como desnecessariamente agressiva (lembra daquele episódio de Seinfeld?). Os blogs de viagens estrangeiras aconselham que é melhor dar aos americanos espaço durante a conversa, e observe que mesmo o contato físico mínimo é um pouco íntimo demais para a maioria.

DAR GORJETA PARA (QUASE) TODOS

Os frequentadores de restaurantes fora dos EUA raramente se preocupam em deixar gorjetas para os garçons. Parece injusto, até que você perceba que os funcionários da indústria de serviços no exterior tendem a ganhar salários por hora mais altos do que seus colegas americanos, cuja estrutura de pagamento é construída em torno de gratificações. Como observou um artigo do TripAdvisor, “[aqueles] que prestam serviços geralmente dependem da receita das gorjetas e geralmente são gratos por receber qualquer tipo de gorjeta, especialmente quando um serviço rápido e excepcional é fornecido.”

SEGUIR LEIS RIGOROSAS DE ÁLCOOL

Além de ser um dos poucos países que proíbem o consumo de álcool para menores de 21 anos, alguns lugares nos EUA ainda obedecem às leis da era da Lei Seca que restringem a venda de cerveja, vinho e licor. Em Indiana, por exemplo, as lojas de bebidas alcoólicas ainda não têm permissão para vender bebidas alcoólicas aos domingos, e Kansas, Tennessee e Mississippi são “estados áridos por padrão”, o que significa que os municípios têm que “fazer requerimento” se quiserem vender bebidas.

BATER PAPO COM ESTRANHOS

A tendência dos americanos para conversa fiada pode ser desagradável para quem não cresceu falando sobre o tempo. Especialmente confundador? O fato de que “Como vai você?” não é realmente um convite para se abrir.

RECUSAR DE DISCUTIR AS FINANÇAS

“Os americanos geralmente não discutem quanto dinheiro ganham ou quanto pagam por certos itens de alta qualidade”, advertiu outro artigo do TripAdvisor. “É considerado muita falta de educação e é ainda mais desconfortável de discutir.”

SE COBRIR

Em um país onde a sunga nunca teve uma chance, não é surpreendente que o banho de sol pelado seja especialmente desaprovado. “[Deve] ser definitivamente observado que tomar banho nu e até mesmo trocar de roupa na praia pode ser interpretado como exposição indecente e, portanto, pode causar problemas”, disse o governo alemão a seus cidadãos em avisos oficiais de viagem para os EUA.

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

RIR EM VOZ ALTA

Os japoneses acham rude mostrar os dentes, e é por isso que não gostam da tendência dos americanos de soltar nossas gargalhadas sinceras e boquiabertas.

SORRIR — MUITO

Alguns especialistas acham que o motivo pelo qual os americanos são tão legais nesse sentido é porque, como uma nação de imigrantes, os americanos tiveram que encontrar maneiras de transcender as barreiras linguísticas. Eis, a tendência de sorrir para estranhos, o que não é algo a que os não-americanos estão acostumados.

MEDIR EM MILHAS, PÉS E POLEGADAS

Isso é óbvio e, mesmo assim, ainda é uma fonte constante de confusão para a maior parte do mundo. Em vez de seguir o sistema métrico, a América é um dos únicos três países a seguir o sistema imperial de medição. (Os outros são Libéria e Mianmar.)

COMER DE TUDO

Os visitantes aos EUA geralmente ficam maravilhados com o tamanho das refeições americanas. Os pesquisadores compararam o tamanho de certos lanches na Filadélfia com os parisienses e descobriram que as barras de chocolate dos EUA eram em média 41% maiores, os refrigerantes 52% maiores e as porções de iogurte 82% maiores. Além disso, estudos mostram que muitas vezes as pessoas ganham peso depois de imigrar para os EUA.

ESPERAR REENCHER A BEBIDA DE GRAÇA

Os únicos restaurantes fora dos EUA que oferecem recargas gratuitas de refrigerantes e café são (geralmente) as redes de fast food americanas. Mas, à medida que essas marcas de fast food estendem seu alcance internacionalmente, os refis gratuitos estão se espalhando – e nem todos estão felizes com isso. No início desse ano, a França proibiu a venda de refrigerante de recarga ilimitada em um esforço para conter o aumento das taxas de obesidade.

INSISTIR NA VARIEDADE

Os americanos “não podem ter apenas uma coisa”, escreveu um residente do Reino Unido no Reddit. “Tem que vir em mirtilo, baunilha, diet, baixa gordura, baixo sódio, grande, pequeno, redondo e UVA, tudo é com sabor de uva [sic]. Nada é com sabor de uva no Reino Unido”.

ENTRAR NA DÍVIDA PARA UM DIPLOMA

Os europeus, em particular, ficaram revoltados em relação ao custo da faculdade nos EUA, que em 2016 foi de quase US 25.000 dólares por ano para faculdades públicas estaduais e quase US 50.000 dólares por ano para universidades privadas. Enquanto isso, alunos de países como França e Alemanha podem frequentar a faculdade gratuitamente.

TAILGATE

É bastante estranho que o futebol americano não tenha quase nada em comum com o esporte que o resto do mundo conhece como futebol. Mas a cultura em torno do futebol americano profissional e universitário é especialmente confusa para os não-americanos. (Veja: Este fórum do Reddit, no qual os americanos explicam o que é tailgating para um britânico perplexo.)

DOÇURA OU TRAVESSURA?

A visão dos EUA sobre o Halloween só recentemente começou a pegar em outros países. Embora alguns achem isso bizarro – e apontem para isso como outro exemplo da tendência dos americanos de comercializar tudo – outros têm inveja. “Eu me mudei da Polônia para os EUA quando tinha 26 anos”, escreveu um usuário do Reddit. “Quando veio [meu] primeiro Halloween e meus amigos me explicaram que estou muito velho para sair pedindo “doces ou travessuras”, quase partiu meu coração.”

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

FAZER ANÚNCIOS PARA TUDO

Anúncios de medicamentos controlados são uma fonte de confusão para o resto do mundo, onde anúncios diretos ao consumidor sobre remédios são totalmente ilegais. Também estranho para não-americanos: comerciais para advogados. Um visitante pra América escreveu no Reddit que havia “anúncios de advogados em toda parte. Anúncios jurídicos no estilo tipo Saul Goodman. A casa alugada onde fomos ficar tinha no mínimo 4 ímãs na geladeira anunciando advogados, folhetos para mais advogados espalhados pela casa e anúncios na TV [constantes] com mais advogados. “

SENTAR NO BANCO DE TRÁS

Chama um táxi em qualquer cidade dos Estados Unidos e o motorista provavelmente vai olhar para você com uma cara estranha se você tentar subir na frente com ele. Mas em lugares como Austrália e Nova Zelândia, optar pelo banco de trás é considerado mal-educado, coisa de elite.

EXPOR DEMAIS EM SANITÁRIOS PÚBLICOS

Os visitantes aos EUA realmente, realmente, realmente não apreciam os box de banheiro estilo americano. Vários fóruns online foram dedicados ao mistério do porquê que há tanto espaço embaixo e ao redor das portas privadas no banheiro.

TRABALHAR O TEMPO TODO

De acordo com um relatório de 2013 do Center for Economic Policy and Research (Centro de Política Econômica e Pesquisa), quase 1 em cada 4 trabalhadores americanos não tem nenhuma licença remunerada garantida, e aqueles que têm apenas têm uma média de 21 dias. “Os EUA são a única economia avançada do mundo que não garante férias remuneradas aos seus trabalhadores”, escreveram os autores. Compare isso com alguns países europeus, como Espanha e Alemanha, onde os empregadores são obrigados a oferecer aos trabalhadores cerca de um mês de dias de férias remuneradas por ano.

EVITAR CRÍTICAS DURAS

Artigos sobre etiqueta empresarial na América freqüentemente fazem referência a como são os ambientes de trabalho informais nos EUA – especialmente quando se trata de interações com os chefes. “Em uma discussão com os americanos, quando eles dizem: ‘Será que essa é realmente a melhor solução?’ eles querem dizer ‘não’ “, alertou um site alemão. “Se eles disserem ‘Estou pensando se podemos precisar de mais tempo’, eles querem dizer ‘não’ … Os americanos ficam confusos (ou simplesmente loucos) se um chefe alemão responde às declarações com ‘Não’, ‘Pode ser’ [ou ] ‘Vai em frente.'”

FICAR FUNDAMENTALMENTE OTIMÍSTICOS

“Americanos e russos dizem coisas diferentes quando enfrentam a mesma situação”, explicou um site russo. “Ao ver o homem que caiu na rua, um americano pergunta: ‘Você está bem?’ Os russos perguntarão: ‘Você está doente?’ … Enquanto ‘não estamos doentes’, eles ‘ficam bem’ “. E um guia japonês da cultura americana observou que” Na América, você pode cometer erros, falhar e isso não importa. É um sentimento fundamental de que às vezes estar incorreto é natural … em vez de pensar em erros e falhas, os americanos [sic] têm curiosidade e dizem: ‘Vamos tentar mesmo assim!’ “

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Isn’t that a question? (audio version)

Photo by Bryan Catota on Pexels.com

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)

Photo by Bryan Catota on Pexels.com

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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society + Doctor Sleep [2019]

curtesy of YouTube

This post is going to be a little different than what you’ve seen before. We’ve looked at music, American society, and even a couple of slang terms. I figured well, I also love movies, so why the heck not do a movie section? Of course, movies tend to be a lot longer than songs and so I’m not going to analyze every line from the screenplay of Doctor Sleep (but you wish!). Instead, I’m going to focus on some elements and imagery from the movie and explain how these things relate to American society, or maybe what they reveal about the culture.

Sound interesting? Sure it does! So let’s keep reading.

I’d also like to point out that this is mainly for English students or foreign people who are curious about American society, just as a warning that some things may sound redundant if you are an English-speaker or American. Though, of course, anyone is welcome!

Doctor Sleep — not to get confused with Doctor Strange — is a supernatural horror movie written and directed by Mike Flanagan. It was made in 2019 and is a sequel to The Shining from 1980. Well, that took long enough! Besides the fact of it being a sequel, I want to mention this because The Shining has been a definitive cultural event since it came out. Not everyone has seen the movie — in fact, lots of people I know haven’t, which is mind … POOSH — but pretty much everyone recognizes at least some of the scenes from this movie.

credit from Fandom, here

The sinister opening music from the score … the waves of splashing blood pouring through the halls … the twin girls staring down the hall with their evil eyes … Jack Nicholson screaming “Here’s Johnny!” as he axes down a door. I mean, there are just too many iconic scenes to go on. The popular impact of The Shining makes today’s subject so significant too, even if it’s a mere sequel.

Just like with its predecessor, Doctor Sleep has several iconic scenes and shots, including a girl running her hands through the mental “files” of her witch foe, people flying in and out of each other’s minds, and the iconic “REDRUM” spelling itself so ominously on the cracked walls. But back to the topic: What does this movie say about America? Well, let’s see…

One noticeable aspect of the movie is the different regions of the country we see the characters going to. Stephen King, who is the author of the books, is from Maine, a state in New England. If you notice in the movie they’re mostly in some town in New Hampshire. There are little brick buildings, central church chapels, and cute little parks in the middle of town. This layout is of the classic New England town. Given the fact that Danny, the lead character, goes there to cleanse and heal from alcoholism, you can tell that these places are considered locations where you can live peacefully, get away from the noise of the city, and enjoy the fall leaves. On the other hand, when Danny is in Florida, he gets high on drugs and alcohol all the time and sleeps around with strange women, which lets you know how other Americans might view Florida. That’s also where the creepy True Knots are first seen attacking that little girl. Sorry, Florida. Harsh.

a field like you might see in the Midwest, Photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unsplash

Later on, they go to Colorado which is full of mountains, forest, and pretty lakes, while we go to Iowa and see nothing but cornfields and baseball diamonds. This probably wasn’t on accident, because Iowa and the Midwest, in general, are seen as centers for agriculture and farming, especially corn. They are also seen as the “heartland” of America, which is why you get such an important symbol like baseball there. A poor boy gets abducted in Iowa, and what happens to him also has something to say about our society.

I don’t know if this started in the U.S. or was brought here by Eastern Europeans, but gypsies are a controversial topic from this movie. Sometimes as kids, people are told to watch out for gypsies because they eat children or some nonsense. True to the myth, that’s pretty much what happens in the movie. Gypsies are based on the ethnic Roma or Romani people, but often any group of people that travel around together without any kind of direction or stability are generally considered gypsies. Especially if they’re in a trailer.

a trailer-home, Photo by John Mark Jennings on Unsplash

Trailers have a lot of importance in America. People use trailers to travel long distances, go camping, and to live in, amongst other things. A popular notion too is that “gypsies” or just people without any stable home roam around the country in a trailer. The scene of the True Knot picking up the boy in Iowa as well as the scene where Danny arrives with Abra, the other main character, at her home, shed light on this. Abra’s dad has a little freak-out session and nearly tries to kill Danny.

These two scenes show how kids in America are taught to deal with strangers (Don’t get into a car with them) and how parents react when they see their children, especially daughters, with strange adults. This seems logical, but I have seen in some other countries that kids interacting with unknown adults is not the most outrageous thing that could happen. No one wants their child to get abducted, but I notice in America, parents seem to be especially cautious in this sense compared to some other countries. Maybe this is because there are tons of cases of child abduction, child molestation, and child abuse that parents become especially protective. Children are a lot less likely to talk to strangers, even if they are genuine and nice people, because of this worry that American parents tend to put into their heads. I blame investigative shows like 20/20 and channels like Investigation Discovery (ID) for this, but I guess they have good reasons.

classic neon movie theater, Photo by Jeff Pierre on Unsplash

I don’t have too much else to say. You could see how Abra’s house was really big and nice, a sort of “classic American home” at least nowadays. We also saw some racial diversity in the movie, kind of lending to the push for more diversity in movies and media in recent years. I think that’s cool. Danny works at a convalescent home (commonly an “old folks home” or “retirement home”) helping the seniors go to sleep … forever. This is more of a Western thing, I think, where it’s acceptable and even pretty common to send old people to live in these care facilities instead of taking care of them at home. The movie theater where the girl, Andi I think, gets recruited to the True Knot team of vagabonds is a kind of classic American movie theater. You get the big neon sign out front with the movie titles on it, a ticket booth, and a big theater house full of seats and balconies and whatnot. Other than that, many Americans like a good scare, a good thrill, a mystic tale of spirit-suckers that get defeated by a living mansion burning to the ground. Or was it a hotel? Those hats the True Knot were wearing are kind of in style with certain hipster communities. I’ll talk about them another day.

I left the trailer up top if you’re interested. Also, did you notice anything else about Doctor Sleep that speaks on American society or society at large? And if any of you saw this movie, what did you think of it? Tell me in the comments, or email me at tietewaller@gmail.com. Stay well!

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

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.

.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

“Carnies” [Martina Topley-Bird]

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A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue
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Fun and games are coming to town … and all the crying and drama that go along with them. Read the lyrics and explanations of “Carnies” song by Martina Topley-Bird, and learn some new English terms! And don’t forget to read a fuller explanation, comment, and watch the music video below–>

Ferris wheels and cotton candy

  • I’ll stick some images here in case you don’t know these.
A Ferris wheel, Photo by Amanda Cottrell on Pexels.com

The folks try to stall as the kids get antsy

  • “Folks” is another word for people in general. Usually used to talk about a certain group of people together. It can also be used to talk about one’s parents. “I’m going to visit my folks this weekend.” To “stall” is to hesitate or stop completely. In a more figurative way, it also means to distract from the main point. “Stop stalling and just tell the story!” And “antsy” means restless, like when someone can’t sit still.

They sit there complaining there’s nothing else to do

So we pick up our coats and go down to the fair

  • Just a note, “fair” as a noun usually refers to a kind of carnival with rides, games, and snacks. For example, in many places in America, we have county fairs. The biggest kinds are World’s Fairs.
Some cotton candy, Photo by Mariana Kurnyk on Pexels.com

Who knows what we’ll find when we get there?

Eyes will be streaming, faces split in two

  • “Eyes streaming” has the sense of a river or stream flowing. This probably means that kids will be crying, probably because they don’t want to leave. “Faces split in two” reminds me of the classic symbol of theater or drama with a mask that is half happy and half sad. This imagery tells how people at the fair will be a mixture of happy and sad faces.
classic comedy/tragedy masks, at Foundry Brothers

Carnies have come to town

  • “Carnies” is the same as a carnival or fair. It is more of a British slang, if I’m not mistaken, since we don’t use it as much in the U.S. Saying something “has come to town” means that it has come or arrived in your area. Whether you’re talking about a town, city, or rural area, you can always use “come to town” to talk about an event coming to your area.

If they stay, will you hang around?

  • To “hang around” just means to stay or remain somewhere. She could also say “Will you hang?” and it means the same thing. A similar phrase is “stick around.” “Will you stick around for Christmas too?”

Lately where have you gone?

  • “Lately” is such a good word! I think it could be a little confusing for English learners. It is basically the same as recently, or in recent days. “What’ve you been doing lately (in recent days)?”

I’ve been waiting for so long

When will you come back?

Say what you want life’s too good to be true

Jump start me after I’m through the sunroof

  • To “jump-start” something is to give it a big push, almost like you’re so excited to start or to go somewhere. The idea comes from track racing. When someone jump starts, they start running before the race even begins. A “sunroof” is the part of a car’s roof that opens up so you can see the sky. The idea is of Martina jumping out of the roof of her car.
Someone “jumping thru their sunroof”, Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Soon I’ll be home but I don’t know if you will too

Carnies have come to town

If they stay, will you hang around?

Lately where have you gone?

I’ve been waiting for so long

When will you come back?

Carnies is such a fun word. As I said above, it’s more of a British slang from my understanding, since fair or carnival are more common in the U.S. Regardless, I feel like this song really captures the mysterious, fun, and dramatic sense of being at a fair. Fun, games, candy and rides go together with whining children and stressed parents. Besides all that, Martina seems to be missing someone in her lyrics, wondering where they went and if they’ll come back. Part of her wondering might be about the fair itself and when it will come back to her town. But she also seems to be remembering specific experiences with this “mystery person” of when they used to go to carnies, maybe when they were kids. It’s a song full of magical vibes and nostalgia, for sure.

Tell me what you think! Have you ever been to a carny? Is there something from your childhood that you feel nostalgic about? Let me know if you liked this song, and if there is another song you want to see here. Just shoot me an email. Thanks for reading!

And watch the video people 🙂

Aren’t all the U.S. states and cities basically the same?

Anyone who’s traveled inside the U.S.A. knows the answer to this already. For now though, I want to tackle this from a cultural perspective. I’m thinking of opening a new category later on that focuses on geographical differences. This here is about the American people. I’ll break this post up quickly into the following categories:

  • religion
  • gun control
  • ethnic background
  • political stance
  • language & immigration
  • the weather factor
  • identity

I also won’t talk about every state and city, but I’ll try to break it down enough to give you a good idea. Starting off!

Religion

I want to begin with one of the most easily distinguishable differences between different states in general. As you might remember from my post about religion (if not, please check it here), the U.S. is mostly a Protestant nation. However, you’ll remember that some places are less Protestant than others. While about 70% of Americans are Christians, there is a higher concentration of them in this general region called the South. That’s why this region is generally known as the “Bible Belt,” and it’s where you normally find the most religious and traditional communities. Otherwise, the Mormon communities are identified as the “most religious” group in America, which I guess means they’re super devout. Other hardline religious and cultural groups are the Amish and Mennonites around Pennsylvania and Ohio mostly.

Peek at map showing the dominant religion in each U.S. county
Credit Robby Berman from here

This map explains pretty much all I want to say about religion. Among Christians, the Evangelists and Black Protestants are super prevalent in the Bible Belt. Mainline Protestants are more common in the North, while Hispanic Catholics are really prevalent close to the Mexican border and around Miami. Otherwise, Catholics fill up the Northeast, and there are even a few enclaves in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas around where the Spanish and French used to have more influence. Mormons are really popular in the West, especially around Utah, and Native American Catholics have little enclaves throughout the West. Cool.

On the other hand, New England (Northeast) altogether tends to be the least-religious part of the country. But you can see, even within most of the states, religious affiliations change based on the region. Southern Florida, Texas and Louisiana are mostly Catholic while the northern parts are Protestant. The opposite is true in Illinois. And that should be a good enough intro for you.

Gun Control

Credit Kathy Morris from here

That’s right! American states differ greatly on whether they support gun control or not. Unlike religion, this concept has less of a pattern. There really doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to which states support more gun control over others when we talk about permits. States that require permits vs those that don’t are pretty scattered all over the place. However, when we look at states that are gun-friendly, or are more accepting of having guns in general, the trends become more clear. These places usually coincide with states that are more rural or where people most like to go hunting.

The South and some parts of the West are pretty evenly supportive of guns. There are some lone anomalies, like Nevada in the West, Iowa in the Midwest, or New Hampshire in New England. Overall, it’s easy to see the trend. Southern states support guns. A couple of random states in the Midwest support guns. Some random western states and most of the Northeast don’t support guns. Apparently, Delaware, New Jersey, and Hawaii really hate guns. I feel like the big game hunting isn’t so good in those states, though.

Ethnic Background

The U.S. is definitely a diverse nation where nearly all ethnicities and nationalities (not to mention cuisines) can be found. What is Laotian food, anyway?

However, this too depends on the state or city in question. For example, most big cities have more diverse populations than the rural areas. There are several cities with more “minorities” than there are white people (check my other article here for more on this). Looking across the board, cities are usually where you’ll find a large chunk of diversity at.

Read it on Reddit

Still, there are some other factors to look at. As you can see, people of English ancestry are found especially in the South and the West. German ancestry is all over that central-north area of the country, while Scandinavian ancestry sits way in the North. The Irish filled up around New England, while Italians were mostly around the Tri-State area (Metro New York). Native Americans are dotted about the West, while you even see many Inuit at the top of Alaska. French ancestry is strong in the Northeast and around southern Louisiana. Something to remember about the German area is that, even though it takes up the most space, most of that region has a small and scattered population.

Political Stance

Now, I don’t like to get political, trust me. I will say that every state pretty much has either strong support for Democrats or Republicans. Some things to look for are that the West Coast, some western states, and the Northeast tend to swing more left, while most the other states swing right. Still, you’ll find that across the country, most large urban areas will be more liberal-minded than not, and most rural or small urban areas will lean conservative. There are a few small exceptions to this, but it is almost the rule when looking at political stance.

Something else that’s interesting is the so-called “Swing States.” These are states that are caught in the middle and may stand on one side or the other depending on who’s running for office. Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are classic examples of Swing States. In the most recent election (2020) some states like Georgia or Arizona proved to be new examples of Swing States. Even Texas showed to be a little more liberal than usual, despite its long history of being overwhelmingly conservative. No matter what you thought of the election, there’s no denying that some places in America feel a little more blue than red. All we need is a white party to complete the American flag. Maybe it could balance the other two?

Language & Immigration

We already looked at ancestral ties between Americans in different states, but what about the newcomers? You might know that Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the U.S., but who speaks it depends on where you are. The Southwest has the most Spanish speakers, but most of them are from Mexico, with a big group of Central Americans and small groups of others. Meanwhile, Florida and the East Coast have tons more Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans and South Americans. Oh, and a lot of Mexicans too. Geography plays a role in this, since the East is closer to the Caribbean, while the West literally touches on Mexico.

You also get lots of Asians with their respective languages in major cities, but especially on the West Coast and New York. Some of the biggest and most authentic Asian communities are in places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and so on. Of course, the West and East coasts are closest to Asia, so that’s where a bunch of the Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indian, and even Middle Eastern immigrants have gone along with their various languages. For more on languages, check this post.

Something else to look at is historic minorities in the U.S. African Americans are especially prevalent in both the South, since that’s where most the African slaves were taken, and big cities since that’s where they moved to find work and security after being freed. Native Americans are most prevalent in parts of the West because that’s where the most open and inhospitable parts of the country are. Many nations and tribes were driven from their homelands further east and forced to relocate out West, trading lush forests and rivers for, you know, deserts, tornadoes, and rattlesnakes. They were also forced to live with the people that already occupied these regions which was a problem because they spoke completely different languages, had different cultures, and were already there. Well, that’s another post.

Weather Factor

Speaking of tornadoes, a big part of the identity of someone from any given state or city is their weather. It might sound trivial at first, but I’ll show you. Think of Southern California and what comes to mind? Sunshine, beaches, and palm trees — I hope. Please, try not to think of anything bad! But this is the association someone from SoCal has, and so it goes for any other state or region. Seattle is famous for being rainy and cloudy, Arizona is known for extreme desert climates, Colorado is known for its mountains and skiing, and Florida is known for being sunny and tropical, with the occasional tropical storm. Chicago is famous for being windy and cold in the winter, while Hawaii is a paradise where it’s always a nice beach day. The weather ends up determining a lot of how we perceive each state and city.

Identity

So, you put all these factors together and you get a good idea of what the identity of someone from a certain state or region might be like. There are many other factors, by the way, and no two people are the same, but this can give you an idea. For example, someone from New York City is more likely to be a Catholic with Italian ancestry who doesn’t really approve of guns, probably a Democrat who speaks English but if they speak Spanish they’re family is likely from the Caribbean or maybe they immigrated from China, they definitely like Chinese and Caribbean food but they’re used to hot summers and freezing cold winters. Anyway, they might be none of those things, but you get the point. Every state and major city is a little (or a lot) different.

Alright! Tell me what you think of this post. Does your country have lots of diversity like the U.S.? Can you name some other differences between the states? Do you want to guess my profile based on this list? (hint, hint) I’m from Los Angeles.

Also, contact me or send me a question if you want to know more, talk, or give some suggestions for future posts. Right here: tietewaller@gmail.com

Thanks and be safe!

Here are some more resources:

Religion in the U.S.: https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

Map of religions by county: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/dominant-religions-in-the-us-county-by-county

Least religious places in U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_religiosity#:~:text=According to a 2011 Gallup,%)%20were%20near%20the%20median.

Gun-friendly states: https://www.zippia.com/advice/least-gun-friendly-states/

Ethnic Ancestry in the U.S.: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/bfpbzu/largest_ancestry_groups_in_the_united_states_by/

“Colorado” [Kota the Friend]

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Good vibes and vacations. Here are the song lyrics along with some explanations for “Colorado” by Kota the Friend, from his Colorado album. Use the lyrics to practice your English and learn more about the culture. Also, the song has a really smooth beat, so listen to it below! Comment with suggestions for songs you want me to “explain” next. Here it is:

Bill collector knockin’ at the door

Baby momma yelling in my ear

Honestly, a lot is going on

  • This is another way to say that things are happening. “What’s going on?” “Nothing’s going on.”

Only thing is I don’t really care

  • *The only thing…

People wonder how I keep a smile

Tell ’em it’s ’cause I don’t give a f***

  • *I tell them it’s because… When you don’t give a “F,” this means that you don’t care (at all).

I’ve been in my slippers for a while

Even all my haters show me love, yeah

  • To “show love” can mean to show true romantic love like in a relationship. In other cases, it can mean to show respect, honor, or appreciation for someone. Even his haters (people that normally are against him) are now showing him respect.

I just wish ’em well though

  • To “wish someone well” is a common phrase, a good one to remember.

Hope you gettin’ money, hope you doin’ well, bro

Heard your sister love me, I’m in Colorado

  • *I heard your sister loves me…

Do not f****** at me, I been on vacation ’cause I need it badly

  • *I’ve been on vacation because… When he says “do not at me,” it reminds me of the more common phrase “Don’t come at me.” To come at someone means to criticize them, go after them in a mean way, or attack them somehow, usually with harsh words. Maybe he left out the “come”? If it is normal to say “don’t at me,” I just haven’t heard it before. It also sounds like he might be saying “do not add me” like on social media, but that doesn’t make as much sense in the context. The “F” word here just adds anger or emphasis to his statement. Also, needing something “badly” means that you really need it. “I wanted to get some ice cream so badly, but now I’m over it.”

Hotel California my escape

  • “Hotel California” is an old rock song by the Eagles. It is kind of a calm and relaxing song, at least for a rock song. His reference can be to the calm music, to a hotel (on vacation), and for California itself since California is a popular vacation spot and is known for generally good weather. Also, listen to “Hotel California” here.

P-P-Pulling up in Mexico with New York City plates, ayy

  • To “pull up” is to arrive at a place, usually in a car. “Plates” here refer to license plates on a car. Also, “ayy” is something you might hear frequently in music, especially in hip hop. It’s an expression that can be used in lots of situations usually to show excitement or that you like something.
California coast, Photo by Mike Fox on Unsplash

Neighbors want a photo when I visit where I stay, ayy

If you talking drama, get the f*** up out my face, ayy

  • *If you are talking… “Up” here has no real meaning. It just adds emphasis and feeling to his statement.

Dodging bad vibes like skrrt

A car “skrrt”-ing, Photo by Peter Zhurakhovsky on Unsplash
  • To “dodge” is to avoid. “Vibes,” I’m sure many of you know, are vibrations in the figurative sense. If something gives you good vibes, it makes you feel good, and the same goes for bad vibes. “Skrrt” is a sound you’ve heard a lot if you listen to recent hip hop or trap music (Migos, looking at y’all). It’s basically the sound a car’s wheels make when you drive away or turn fast. The idea in this song is that he is dodging bad vibes with a big turn, like how you might try to avoid an obstacle in the road.

Drama on my line like skrrt

  • His “line” is the group of people that message him or interact on social media. But skrrt, he’s avoiding it.

Left it in the past like skrrt

  • *I left it…

Getting to the bag like skrrt

  • To “get to the bag” means to make money since “bag” in general is a slang term for money. Also, in this sense, skrrt doesn’t mean he is avoiding something. It sounds more like he is driving in a hurry to go and make money.

Skrrt, skrrt, skrrt, skrrt

Skrrt, skrrt-skrrt, skrrt

Skrrt, skrrt, skrrt, skrrt

Skrrt, skrrt, skrrt, skrrt

People really think my life is perfect

Maybe ’cause I’m laughing through the worst s***

Yeah, I know the Devil is alive but

  • “The Devil is alive” is a popular phrase in the Christian community here in America. It basically means that the Devil is being active, working, and trying to make bad things happen. In a not-so-literally sense, it just means that something bad is trying to challenge us and get in our way. By acknowledging the Devil is alive, it’s like scaring away the bad thoughts or actions in some way. I feel like a lot of people also say “the Devil is a lie” without noticing any difference.

The way that I been moving got him nervous

  • *I’ve been moving has him nervous… To “get/have someone nervous” just means to make them nervous.

Mac, I hope you know you did your thing

  • Mac is referring to Mac Miller, a famous American rapper who died a few years ago due to a mixed drug and alcohol overdose. Saying someone “did their thing” is a form of admiration, meaning they did something well while being original and having fun with it. You can also wish someone to “do their thing” with the same meaning. “Man, you look like you’re having fun. Go do your thing.” It’s a type of compliment.
Miller performing in July 2017
Mac Miller, by Nicolas Völcker, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get your rest ’cause, homie, you deserve it

  • “Homie” is a friend or trusted person, usually. Again, he is referencing Mac Miller and his early death. A similar phrase is “rest in peace.” To “rest” is a lighter way to refer to death, or someone being dead.

Ocean always deeper than it seem

  • *The ocean is always deeper than it seems…

And people only looking at the surface

  • *And people are only looking… The idea is like an iceberg. There’s much more under the surface.

Pa-paparazzi caught me hopping out my bag, ayy

  • I’m not sure if paparazzi is a common word in other languages. They are those reporters who go after and take photos of famous people. To “catch” here means to find someone. It usually means finding someone doing something that is not right or something the person is trying to hide. “I caught momma kissing Santa Claus” is a prime example. “Bag” in this lyric is a little confusing to me. In slang, it usually means money, goals, or a style. In this case, I can’t really tell. Is he hopping out of his money? Maybe he’s hopping out of his car, since “hop in/out” is usually used when talking about cars. Maybe there’s another meaning to “bag” that I don’t know about.

Hopping in the Uber on my way to get the bag, ayy

Used to drink a bottle every day ’cause I was sad, ayy

I hit up my dad like I hope that we could patch things

  • To “hit someone up” is to send them a message, like on your cell phone. To “patch” or “patch up” mean to fix something, usually a situation or relationship that has gone bad.

Women could not put me in my feelings, n****, f*** that

  • To be “put in your feelings” means to feel emotional or sensitive about something. It’s common to talk about this after a breakup or after being put down verbally by someone else. “F that” is a common curse to say that you don’t like something or don’t accept something.

If she do not want the realest n****, then she dumb wack

  • *If she does not want the most real n****, then she’s… I’m not sure that “realest” is a real word, but it sure is used a lot. It’s a popular term, especially used in the black community, and often referencing hip hop. To be “the realest” means to be someone who tells things truthfully, is strong, really good at what you do, and just all-around successful and confident. It’s basically a compliment that covers all good qualities. When a person or thing is “wack” it means you don’t like it or you think it’s stupid. “Turn this song off, I don’t like it. It’s wack.” “Dumb” here doesn’t mean stupid or unintelligent, though. It is like saying really or super. “If she doesn’t like me, then she’s super wack.” It can be positive too. “Kevin Hart is dumb funny! You should watch his standup.”

I don’t ever trip, but I bet that you would love that

  • To “trip” means to act out of character, act in a weird way, or be upset for no reason. “Why are you tripping, man? Calm down.” It can also mean to have weird experiences like hallucinations while high on drugs, but that’s in other situations.

I don’t ever trip, but I bet that you would love that

Then the lyrics repeat.

Oh, “Colorado.” It’s funny that Colorado isn’t even mentioned but once, I think, in the entire song. He talks about New York, Mexico, and California too. The point of the song isn’t Colorado itself, but he’s talking about getting away from the noise of New York, which is where Kota is from. The lyrics focus on him escaping bad vibes and noise and drama. He also brings up some issues that he’s going through, and how people usually judge what they see on the surface without considering the deeper pain or struggle in a person’s life. Kota is a person like us all, and we all go through things sometimes. He also adds a kind tribute to Mac Miller, which fits in nicely with the theme of going through struggles and trying to find an escape. Ultimately, it’s about getting out, ditching the drama, and making his bag.

Did you listen to the song? What did you think about the beat? Can you relate to some of Kota’s feelings and thoughts in your own life? Let me know down below! As always you can reach me by email at: tietewaller@gmail.com

Listen here:

Not smart inferno

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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