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!

wack_wacky_kicks_for-kicks

A handful (audio version)

Photo by Bryan Catota on Pexels.com

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?

grip_host_wild

“Colorado” [Kota the Friend]

Flag of the United States
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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

“20 Dollar” [M.I.A.]

A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue
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Flag of Sri Lanka
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AK’s and goat fry. Read the song lyrics below and learn some new English idioms, phrases, or cultural explanations. And don’t forget to watch the video and read more below!

War! War! War!

Talking about y’all’s such a bore

  • *Talking about you all is …

I’d rather talk about moi

  • “Moi” means “me” in French.

Like do you know the cost of AK’s up in Africa?

  • I’m sure you know, AK’s, or AK-47’s, are a type of assault rifle, probably the most referenced rifle in pop culture. Also, saying “up in” someplace is just a more colorful way to say “in” someplace. The “up” has no real meaning here.
AK-47 – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre
An AK-47 from Wikipedia

20 dollars ain’t s*** to you

  • 20 dollars isn’t… Saying that something “ain’t s**” or “isn’t worth s***” means it isn’t worth anything, doesn’t mean anything, or it has a super low value/cost.

But that’s how much they are

So they’re gonna use the s*** just to get far

  • To “go far” or “get far” usually means to become successful. “You have a great voice! You’re going to go far.” It can also mean to escape a current situation.

Is gold, diamonds helping ya?

  • *Are gold and diamonds helping you? “Ya” is a popular way for many English speakers to pronounce “you” informally.

Don’t you like my bandanna?

  • A bandanna is usually worn on the face of criminals, like bandits. It can also be used by liberation fighters, protestors, or rebels, which is what I assume M.I.A. is referring to.
Classic Black Paisley Bandana | Apparel @ Hoo-rag
A pandemic-style bandanna from Hoorag

My stains hang low, on my shirt’s like “Ay-ya-ya!

  • “Stains” might represent bloodstains, as with someone who has been fighting a tough battle. This phrase probably comes from a song by Jibbs called “Chain Hang Low.” It’s a hip-hop song that came out a year before this one, so it might have influenced M.I.A.’s lyric here. Stain rhymes with chain. That last “ay-ya-ya” is just something you might say if you’re stressed, upset, or confused. Listen to “Chain’s Hang Low” here.

Got monkey brains and banana

  • *I’ve got… “Monkey brains” or “banana brains” is another way of saying that someone has disorganized and wild thoughts, or that they’re a little crazy. A similar phrase is something is bananas. “This beat is bananas!”

I’ll hit you with my antenna

  • She is talking about a radio antenna. To “hit” someone, besides physically striking them, can also be to figuratively strike them. You can hit someone with a song, with some advice, or with your opinion, for example. Basically, M.I.A. will “hit” us with her music and her style on the radio. Also, hitting someone with a thin metal stick, like an antenna, makes me think of beating or whipping someone for discipline.

I put soap in my eye

Make it red so I look rawr-rawr-rawr!

  • I can’t tell if she’s saying “rawr” or “raw.” Either way, her red eyes will make her look scary, intimidating, or really cool. “Raw” in slang also has these meanings. “Rawr” is the sound a big cat makes, like a lion or tiger. Could be something to do with the Tamil Tigers, a guerrilla group in Sri Lanka that influenced M.I.A.’s family and ancestral country.

So I woke up with my Holy Quran and found out I like Cadillac

  • The way she says “Cadillac” almost sounds like she’s saying “Allah,” meaning God in Arabic. This plays with the previous line about the Quran. Cadillac is an American brand and a representation of a strong, American product. This line might mean that she read the Quran (the Arab/Eastern world) and decided she preferred the Cadillac (the American/Western world). Or, she read the Quran (religion) and decided she preferred a Cadillac (consumerism, buying things, earthly things). There could be a lot of interpretations from this quick lyric.

So we’re shooting until the song is up

  • If something “is up,” that means it ends. This is represented in the phrase, “You’re time is up.” Your time is finished.

Little boys are acting up

  • To “act up” is to be bad or misbehave. Kids are good at acting up.

And baby mothers are going crazy

  • This is related to “baby mama” which is a very popular way to refer to the mother of someone’s child. It has turned into a pop-culture reference to a certain class of people that is uneducated, has lots of babies outside of marriage, and is usually lower class or has bad taste. “What are you gonna do if you quit school? Turn into some guy’s baby mama?”

And the leaders all around cracking up

  • *And the leaders are all around … To “crack up” here means to laugh a lot, or laugh really loudly. “That joke always cracks me up!”

We goat-rich, we fry

  • *We’re goat rich… “Goat rich” isn’t a very popular term at least in American English. I can imagine that it refers to someone who has a lot of goats or livestock (animals for farming and produce). So M.I.A. and the people she represents are not rich in money, but have lots of livestock and make money in a simple, humble, and traditional way. In lots of poorer countries or regions, people still live off of trading and raising animals. Also, adding “rich” after a noun means that you have as much wealth as that thing. “I’m not Zuckerberg rich, but I make good money.”

Price of living in a shanty town just seems very high

  • *The price of … A shanty town is a type of improvised community for people who are either poor or live in extreme poverty. They are usually made of wood, tarp and other plastic, or anything sturdy enough to build a small improvised home. In some countries, these communities can be more dangerous, hold gang activity, trafficking, or just have bad sanitation. Another word for the same idea is “slum.” Shanty towns often start as temporary camps or communities that evolve over time into permanent neighborhoods or miniature towns. That’s why the price (emotionally, or for one’s wellbeing) of living in one can be high.
Shanty town along the Mekong River - Picture of Sundance Riverside Hotel,  Phnom Penh - Tripadvisor
A common shanty town/slum, TripAdvisor

But we still like T.I.

  • T.I. is a famous rapper from the U.S. who represents Atlanta, Georgia. This line can mean that even though they live in poor conditions, they still listen to American music, or hip hop, and still like to have fun.

But we still look fly

  • To “look fly” is to be dressed really nicely or have good style in appearance.

Dancing as we’re shooting up

  • Again, the “up” doesn’t necessarily have meaning. They might be shooting “up” into the sky, or shooting up a place (shooting it a bunch of times). This is similar to the idea to “beat up,” meaning to beat or hit a bunch of times.

And looting just to get by

  • To “loot” is to steal. It’s more of an old-fashioned word, and in the U.S. it reminds most people of pirates who would loot other ships. Also, “loot” can be an informal term for money, in general. Of course, to “get by” means to survive some situation or to get through something difficult.

With your feet on the air

Your head on the ground

Try this trick and spin it – yeah!

Your head’ll collapse when there’s nothin’ in it

And you’ll ask yourself

Where is my mind?

  • These four lines of the chorus were taken from a song by Pixies, “Where is My Mind.” Besides that, it’s just a really cool, trippy, interesting thing to put into a song. Listen to “Where is My Mind” here.

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

War! War! War!

Who made me like this?

Was it me and God in co-production?

My Devil’s on speed-dial

  • To have someone on “speed-dial” is to have their number saved and easily accessible. Basically, it means they’re the first person you call when you want something or they are your favorite person to talk to.

Every time I take the wrong direction

All I want is one thing and that is what you got

  • *that is what you’ve got. Or *that is what you have. To me, it also sounds like she could be saying “and that is what you want.” Either way, she wants what someone else has or desires.

Sometimes I go lose my mind, and I feel numb

There’s 24 hours in a day

  • *There are 24 hours …

I used to spilt it 8, 8, 8

That’s 8 – work, 8 – sleep, 8 for play!

Now I give it all it takes

  • To “give it all it takes” is to put in full effort, try as hard as you can.

Got people on the Internet with a new lack for the intellect

  • *You have people on … People on the internet have created a new way to be stupid, basically (lack of intellect). It almost sounds like she’s saying “a new life for the intellect,” but I’m not sure. “Lack” makes more sense to me, it sounds more like what she says, and it’s funnier.

People judge me so hard ’cause I don’t floss my titty set

  • *so hard because I don’t … To “floss” something means to show it off to others. This was before the “floss” dance, but it might be related (?). Titty is kind of a controversial word, and to lots of people, it can be offensive. I just wanted to note that it is a woman’s breast or boob.

I was born out of dirt like I’m porn in a skirt

  • I almost forgot to mention! So “dirty” can refer to something that is covered in dirt and has bad hygiene. It can also mean something that is naughty, sexual, or sleezy. So “dirt” here has a double meaning.

I was a little girl who made good, well au revoir, adieu

  • To “make good” is to make success or be successful at something. It usually has to do with monetary success. “Au revoir” and “adieu” mean See you later, and Goodbye in French. In many places of the English world, France is seen as a place that is rich, fancy, and high class. M.I.A. repeating French words in this song can be a reference to how other people might see her as fancy and high class now that she is making music on the radio and becoming famous. For her, this was especially true in the late 2000s.

I put people on the map that never seen a map

  • *that have never seen … Also, to be “put on the map” means that someone gets discovered by lots of people. They become a landmark much like the Statue of Liberty of Eiffel Tower (since we’re talking about France).

I’ve showed ’em something they’ve never seen

And hope they make it back!

  • “Make it back” here means to survive some wild situation, to come out on top, and to overcome. Think of a soldier “making it back” home after a war.

Then the lyrics repeat.

Sooo … This song is close and dear to my heart. It’s a song that made me fall in love with M.I.A., partly because of the weird and crazy instrumental, buzzing sounds, and her ominous chanting all throughout the song. But the lyrics are certainly a big source of my love for this song. It’s kind of a random song and the lyrics touch on multiple different issues. Most of the song is about M.I.A.’s newfound success and international fame, and how she is dealing with it. She talks about her humble beginnings, places she’s been and how hard life is in those places. She’s made success, but she doesn’t forget where she’s been. She definitely won’t let her listeners forget that there are places in the world where people make a living frying goats or where guns only cost 20 dollars, even if in the world of fame and fortune, that cost means almost nothing.

What did you think of this song? Can you understand her struggle between ridiculous wealth and cruel poverty? Do you know what M.I.A. stands for? Let me know in the comments! As always, if you want to send me a message or suggest a song for me to do next, please send me an email! tietewaller@gmail.com

Oh, and please listen to this song!

Shooting the buzz bang

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?

“Lazaretto” [Jack White]

Watch video below–>

Oh, my veins are blue and connected

  • Having “blue blood” means to be privileged, an aristocrat, or well-off. There also might be a connection to Blues music.

And every single bone in my brain is electric

  • This reminds me of the phrase “hard-headed” or “having a hard head.” This means that the person doesn’t listen or follow directions, and they like to do things their own way. Having “bones in my brain” might be a reference to having a hard head.

But I dig ditches like the best of ’em

  • Adding “like the best of them” to an action means that you can do it as well as the best. “He’s a great guitarist. He can play it like the best of them.”

Yo trabajo duro

  • For those that don’t speak Spanish/Castilian: “I work hard”

Como en madera y yeso

  • “Like in wood and plaster.” Like he’s a construction worker, basically.

Como en madera y yeso

And even God Herself has fewer plans than me

  • Referring to God as a “Her” in English is not common, but it’s a rebellious way to break the idea that God is a male figure. A biblical reference, but he’s saying he has even more plans than God has. Very busy.

But she never helps me out with my scams for free, though

  • A “scam” is some plan that is discreet, undercover, or malicious, usually trying to trick someone or to do something you’re not supposed to. Again, referring to God as a female.

She grabs a stick and then she points it at me

  • This is like people who are outcasts or have severe diseases. People are too afraid to touch them with their hands, so they only touch them from far away with a stick. It’s like being disgusted or frightened by those who are different than us. It also reminds me of the story of Moses parting the Red Sea with his staff, for some reason.

When I say nothing, I say everything

Yeah, when I say nothing, I say everything

Transmission of Leprosy in the US via Armadillos - The Plainspoken  Scientist - AGU Blogosphere
some of the symptoms of leprosy, from here

They threw me down in a lazaretto

  • “Lazaretto” was a special kind of quarantine for people with a disease called leprosy. Historically, people with leprosy were secluded from the rest of society. This relates to him feeling like people threw him away into isolation, maybe because of his style or ideas.
Long before coronavirus, Philly ran a quarantine center for another deadly  contagion
An example of an old lazaretto, found here

Born rottin’, bored rotten

  • To “rot” is to go bad, like when a fruit or piece of meat is left out of the fridge for too long. If he was “born rotting,” this means he was born into this state of quarantine, or he’s never fit in with others since he was a kid. To be “bored rotten” is to be extremely bored. Similarly, a kid that is “rotten” is spoiled, or gets whatever they want even if they act bad. There are a lot of mixed meanings in this small lyric.

Makin’ models of people I used to know

Out of coffee and cotton

And all my illegitimate kids have begotten

  • An “illegitimate child” is one born out of a relationship that is not approved of or outside of marriage, for example. To be “begotten” is to be forgotten and left alone. It’s not such a common word in English nowadays and has more of an archaic or biblical feel to it.

Thrown down to the wolves, made feral for nothin’

  • “Thrown to the wolves” is a popular phrase for when someone is thrown into a situation that they obviously have no chance to win. A similar phrase is “thrown to the lions.” “Feral” means wild or like a wild beast. Also, he pronounces “nothing” like “nuttin,” which is common in certain regions and accents.

Quarantined on the Isle of Man

MICHELIN Isle of Man map - ViaMichelin
Isle of Man between Great Britain & Ireland, from here
  • The Isle of Man is a small island off the coast of Great Britain.

And I’m trying to escape any way that I can, oh

7 Reasons you should visit the Isle of Man
Isle of Man is actually quite pretty, here

Any way that I can, oh

Damn, I have no time left, time is lost

No time at all, throw it in a garbage can

And I shake God’s hand

I jump up and let Her know when I can

This is how I’m gonna do it

They wanna burn down the prison

They’re lighting fires with the cash of the masses

  • With the public’s money.

And like the dough, I don’t fall down

  • “Dough” is a slang term for money. Real dough (used to make bread) rises in an oven. “Bread” is also slang for money.

I’m so Detroit, I make it rise from the ashes

  • “I’m so…” is a way to compare yourself to something else. “I’m so Los Angeles, always hot and sunny!” Detroit is known for suffering a huge economic crash but has been steadily rising in importance again. This image of “rising from the ashes” comes from the myth of the Phoenix, a bird that burns and rises again from its ashes. Figuratively, it means to reinvent yourself, grow, learn new things, and come back better after failing.

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This song centers around the idea of a societal outcast, like someone with a terrible disease like leprosy. His quarantine, as if on a lonely island, doesn’t come from a physical illness, but from his ambitions and personal style. The fact that he feels isolated turns out to be positive, since all this makes him unique. There are lots of references from the Bible or that could relate to religion, since leprosy is a disease that was prominent in the Bible. There’s this idea that he was born with some privilege, but he acknowledges this, accepts it, and it doesn’t stop him from working hard or getting his hands dirty. Him saying he works hard like a construction worker in Spanish is kind of a reference to many hard laborers in the U.S. having Mexican heritage, or Latin American heritage in general. What are your thoughts on this song? Do you understand why he would compare himself to a lazaretto? Share your thoughts!

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Also, watch the video. It’s really cool!

Aren’t Americans socially cold and emotionally guarded?

So, this one is going to be more about my own opinions and experiences, though I did do a little bit of research just in case.

As far as the above question goes, the doubt about whether Americans are emotionally cold with others and guarded with their feelings usually comes from countries that have really (really!) open and social societies — places like South America or the Caribbean — or places that are super family oriented — the same places including most of Asia and Africa — at least to generalize. In my experience, I’ve found that many Europeans and Asians tend to see Americans as emotional, expressive of their feelings, and sometimes — in the best of cases — very giving and sweet. This doubt then, I would assume, comes from people in these very “open” societies that see the U.S. on the same pedestal as Europe or East Asia. I’m flattered, really! But yes, there is a difference.

America, much like Canada and other parts of the American continent in general, was constructed by very different types of people from diverse countries and even continents, that had to find ways to trust each other and work together. Given this culture of mixing and melding, many areas of America had to learn to be open and trusting of one another.

But, there’s always a contradiction;

Now, there are lots of Americans that are emotionally guarded, even seem kind of mean, but that’s also a cultural thing. Like I said, we’re mixed, and so we have a heritage of people that are very suspicious of strangers or that don’t share emotions as much. For men in general, it has been traditionally looked down upon to share your feelings, express emotions, and so on. This norm has been steadily changing though, and many of the younger people, especially, are becoming more comfortable with self-expression (just listen to Emo music or Emo rap). You all know who colonized us, and the English are famous for being sort of evasive emotionally. Again, to generalize.

Some factors that historically contributed to this were:

  • wars against foreign powers
  • wars within our borders
  • racial discrimination
  • racial violence
  • riots
  • creepy child abductors
  • mass shootings
  • sometimes our media/government/next-door neighbor has intentionally scared us more than need be

But we get by like any other people.

Another factor in this difference in emotional expression is a matter of East vs West. Eastern cultures tend to connect emotion more to family and community, while Western cultures link emotion to the inner state, meaning it’s more of an individual thing. Even though Americans in general value independence, individualism, and self responsibility, we humans are made to live in communities. We rely on each other for emotional well-being, and a society that’s famous for individualism is vulnerable to certain emotional setbacks. There are scarily high rates of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, as well as hospitalized, suicidal, or self-harming individuals, not to mention the high amount of suicides. I’ll leave the stats out this time since this post isn’t about mental illness, but you can bet there’s a lot of it to go around.

Not to fear! In the end, Americans come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments.

You could easily visit the U.S. and meet the rudest, most guarded person ever on the same day that you meet the most expressive and kind person ever. I’ve met people who wouldn’t let their own momma stay a night in their home, and people that would shelter a whole block-full of strangers if they could.

We’ve got it all. Some might say it’s regional, since the South and Midwest are known for being more open, relaxed, laid-back; after all, they call it “Southern hospitality” for a reason. In my experience, kind and expressive people can be found all over the country, though whether you’re in a big, stressful city or a calm, small town also makes a difference in the quantity.

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What were your experiences with Americans like? Were they nice and expressive? Were they really guarded and mean? Let me know what you think! And don’t forget to check out some other articles to learn more!

Here are some resources for further reading!

Emotional Tendencies in America: https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/01/08/an-emotional-america/

Emotional Complexity in Different Countries: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/emotional-complexity-study/426672/

“Juice” [Lizzo]

Watch the video below–>

Mirror, mirror on the wall

  • This is from the fairy tale, Snow White, when the witch is admiring herself in the mirror.

Don’t say it ’cause I know I’m cute (Ooh, baby)

Louis down to my drawers

  • As in Louis Vuitton designer clothes. “Drawers” is another word for underwear, often pronounced “draws” for short. Basically, all her clothing is expensive, even the underwear.

LV all on my shoes (Ooh, baby)

  • “LV” and “Louis” are both common abbreviations for Louis Vuitton.

I be drippin‘ so much sauce

  • *I am dripping… In slang, “sauce” is confidence, swag, good looks, etc. To “drip” then refers to someone being so full of confidence and swag that it is dripping off of them like water. A similar word is “drip.” (“Do you like my drip?”)

Got a bih lookin’ like RAGÚ (Ooh, baby)

  • “Bih” is another way to say the B-word without sounding too vulgar or just to be funny. RAGÚ is a brand of Italian tomato sauce, referencing her “sauce” from the previous line. A similar line was made popular in the song “Party” by Beyoncé, where Kanye West says, “You got the swag sauce, she dripping Swagu” (swag and RAGÚ). Listen to that song here
Ragu Old World Style Traditional Pasta Sauce ‑ Shop Pasta Sauces at H‑E‑B
Image from here

Lit up like a crystal ball

  • “Lit” is a way to say that something is exciting, or you have lots of energy, are having fun, etc. (“I am lit 24-7.”) (“That was a lit party.”) But she compares this slang meaning of lit to the literal meaning: to show light. Also, the crystal ball is in reference to mystical things and fairy tales, like from the first line.

That’s cool, baby, so is you

  • *So are you

That’s how I roll

  • This phrase is used to explain that this is the way a person is, usually because of some good quality. (“You always wear the best clothes, girl.” “You know, that’s how I roll!”) A similar phrase is “That’s how I do.”

If I’m shinin‘, everybody gonna shine (Yeah, I’m goals)

  • *Everybody is going to shine… To “shine,” besides talking about light, can also describe someone who does really amazing things, shows off a lot, or is really intelligent. (“I suck at physics! But math is where I shine.”) “Goals” comes from social media. It just means that whatever someone is doing is so good that it represents what other people should do. Most popularly with relationships. (“Mark and Susan are such a cute couple! That’s goals.”)

I was born like this, don’t even gotta try (Now you know)

  • *I don’t even have to try…

I’m like chardonnay, get better over time (So you know)

Heard you say I’m not the baddest, b****, you lie (Haha)

  • A “bad b****” is a woman who is really good at what she does, really confident, pretty, and has lots of good qualities. Confidence is the main factor, though. Although it sounds really offensive, it’s actually a compliment in most informal cases.

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here gettin’ loose

  • *It’s not my… To “get loose” is to let go of anxiety or fear, have fun, release your energy, and things like that. Similar verbs are to “let loose” and “cut loose.” People also use it to stretch and warm up muscles before an exercise. (“Let’s start the game!” “Wait, I need to get loose first.”)

Gotta blame it on the Goose

  • *You have to blame… Grey Goose is a brand of vodka. This line refers to a popular song by Jamie Foxx where he says, “Blame it on the Goose … Blame it on the alcohol.” Listen to that song here

Gotta blame it on my juice, baby

  • “Juice” can have lots of meanings in slang. Here, it’s more ambiguous (not concrete). She probably uses it to say her power, confidence, showiness, sexiness, etc.

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here makin’ news

  • Not actually “making” the news. She’s appearing in the news, doing big things.

I’m the pudding in the proof

  • This comes from a saying; “The proof is in the pudding.” It means that something is good because you can try it or prove it, usually as an incentive to convince someone that something is really good. Lizzo changes it, making herself sound like the source of the goodness/tastiness. She is the whole pudding.

Gotta blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

Blame it on my juice, blame it, blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

Blame it on my juice, blame it, blame it on my juice (Ooh, baby)

No, I’m not a snack at all

  • A “snack” is a small meal. In slang, it refers to a person, usually a woman, that is attractive.

Look, baby, I’m the whole damn meal (Ooh, baby)

  • So she’s not saying that she is not attractive, but super attractive. A big “snack.”

David, you ain’t bein’ slick

  • To be “slick” is to try to trick or fool someone. (“You’re not slick, I see what you’re trying to do.”)

Don’t dare try to cop a feel (Ooh, baby)

  • To “cop” something is to get it or try to get it. “Cop a feel” means to try to touch someone, usually in a sensual way. This plays on the name of famous magician, David Copperfield. David, cop a feel. They kind of rhyme.

The juice ain’t worth the squeeze

  • Again, playing on the slang meaning of “juice.” Referring to those juice boxes or packets that you have to squeeze to drink from.
OCEAN SPRAY 100% ORANGE JUICE, 4.2 OUNCE JUICE BOX (PACK OF 40) -  GTIN/EAN/UPC 31200238566 - Cadastro de Produto com Tributação e NCM - Cosmos
Image from here

If the juice don’t look like this (Like this, like this, like this)

  • *juice doesn’t look like…

Hold up, n****, please

  • “Hold up” means wait, wait a minute. “Please” when said like this is the same as telling someone to stop or not think about it, like “stop dreaming.” (“I want to take you out to dinner.” “Boy, please! You don’t even have a car.”)

Don’t make me have to take your b****, s*** (How I roll)

If I’m shinin’, everybody gonna shine (Yeah, I’m goals)

I was born like this, don’t even gotta try (Now you know)

I’m like chardonnay (Okay), get better over time (So you know)

Heard you say I’m not the baddest, b****, you lie (You lie)

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here gettin’ loose

Gotta blame it on the Goose

Gotta blame it on my juice, baby

It ain’t my fault that I’m out here makin’ news

I’m the pudding in the proof

Gotta blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee (Ya-ya-ee), ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

Blame it on my juice, blame it, blame it on my juice

Ya-ya-ee (Ya-ya-ee), ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee

Blame it on my juice, blame it, blame it on my juice (Alright)

Ya-ya-ee

Somebody come get this man

I think he got lost in my DMs, what? My DMs, what?

  • “DM’s” on social media are Direct Messages. To “get lost” in them is like sending someone lots of messages because they really like that person, almost like they’re obsessed.

You better come get your man

  • “You better” is an expression used to tell someone what they need to do. It can either be a piece of advise, or a demand from an authority, like one’s parents. (“You better clean your room, or we’re not leaving.”)

I think he wanna be way more than friends, what?

  • Saying “way” like this means a lot or much. (“I’m sorry, but you were way wrong.”) (“They paid, but I can pay way more.”)

More than friends

What you want me to say?

  • *What do you want…

Lizzo makes a lot of songs about loving oneself, being confident, and appreciating one’s own style and body. This song is no different. The whole concept of the “juice” is this sexiness and swag that she has. She does use more informal English that mostly wouldn’t be acceptable in a professional setting, but is great for using in casual settings or with family and friends. The song is very positive and upbeat. What was your impression of this song? Did you understand it? Do you want to have “juice” like Lizzo? Let me know in the comments!

Video here: