American Slang

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*Sama*

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Hi,
If I am interested in Amercian English do I have to get more involved in slang and learning more about it?
I am asking because I think slang is full of rude ways of talking, which I don't like, and if I don't have to get to know more about it how can I communicate or understand more about the way native American speakers use?
 

Ouisch

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American children learn the difference between acceptable slang and rude slang by getting chastised (or worse! ;-) ) by Mom when they utter something rude. Usually American children learn slang both by watching TV and also overhearing the conversations of the "older" and more worldly kids on the playground. If little Johnny says "son of a gun!" at the dinner table his parents will probably laugh, but if he says "son of a bitch!" they will no doubt react in horror and ask him "Where on Earth did you learn such language?!"

You can learn a lot of AmE slang by watching US-produced TV shows and films. In the US, every TV show and cinema film is assigned a "rating" which indicates whether the show contains profane language, excessive violence, or nudity. If your country doesn't use a similar rating system, you might want to look up the program/film you've just watched on the IMDb, which will give a very detailed breakdown of any objectionable language or nude scenes included in the show. If you hear an AmE slang phrase and are unsure whether or not it is rude, you can always look it up in an online dictionary - phrases that are considered rude or vulgar will be marked as such.
 

Tdol

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You don't have to use slang or anything you consider rude, but you will probably have to understand some.
 

Abstract Idea

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If little Johnny says "son of a gun!" at the dinner table his parents will probably laugh, but if he says "son of a bitch!" they will no doubt react in horror and ask him "Where on Earth did you learn such language?!"

It is difficult for non-native speakers to grasp the meaning and charge of that expression.
I used to think of it as a truly strong offensive one. However, I have two points:

1) In American movies one clearly sees that the expression "son of a bitch" is freely used throughout many speeches. It is so commonly used that it does not appear to be real swearing. In fact, many Portuguese subtitles translate it to a common equivalent Portuguese expression which is not so heavy at all.

2) The word 'bitch' stands for a female dog and it needs context to be an offensive one. See for instance the post by konungursvia in https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/other-languages/103926-um-norte-americano-no-supermercado.html

The bottom line: I think "whore" is much more offensive than "bitch", isn't it?
 

Heterological

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It is difficult for non-native speakers to grasp the meaning and charge of that expression.
I used to think of it as a truly strong offensive one. However, I have two points:

1) In American movies one clearly sees that the expression "son of a bitch" is freely used throughout many speeches. It is so commonly used that it does not appear to be real swearing. In fact, many Portuguese subtitles translate it to a common equivalent Portuguese expression which is not so heavy at all.

2) The word 'bitch' stands for a female dog and it needs context to be an offensive one. See for instance the post by konungursvia in https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/other-languages/103926-um-norte-americano-no-supermercado.html

The bottom line: I think "whore" is much more offensive than "bitch", isn't it?
Great insights from the other side of things, thanks! I think the words "bitch" and "whore" are about equally loaded; I wouldn't use either in polite company. You are right, though, that we often use a lot of impolite language very casually. The word "fuck" is considered by many to be the most offensive word in the English language. It is most commonly referred to as "the f word;" I know of no other words so common and yet so taboo they are known by a single letter! Still, if you watch late-night stand-up comedy, you might hear the word "fuck" more than you hear the word "the."

I have a no-taboo policy in my classroom; my students can ask me about any word or phrase they hear, and I will answer in detail. I do, however, warn them that the word or phrase they are asking about is considered mildly to highly offensive, to which they often react with puzzlement because they've heard it used so casually.

Another important thing to understand about foul language is that much of it is used to denigrate groups of people, and many people in those groups have begun using the offensive language themselves to take the sting out of it. The word "nigger" refers to a person of African descent, and is considered extremely offensive (OK, I take back what I said earlier about "fuck" being the only word known by a single letter--this one is known as "the n word!") Many African-Americans use it among themselves, however, as a way of "reclaiming the word." Words like "bitch," "slut," and "cunt" are all used to denigrate women, and some women are trying to reclaim those words, too, by using them without the intention of disrespect. There's even a book titled Cunt, about the movement to take back that word. So some of what you hear may not be casual or thoughtless; it may be part of a deliberate campaign to take the power out of hurtful language.
 

Barb_D

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Actually, the "c-word" is about as offensive as it gets to many women. I will use the "f-word" from time to time, but never, EVER the n-word or the c-word.

Another word about slang - don't try to use it if it's not natural for you. Slang has age, socio-economic, gender, and geographic appropriateness. My daughter would recoil in horror if I tried to use the slang she uses around her friends, for example. In movies, when they want to show how "un-cool" an adult is, they show him or her trying to use young people's slang and looking ridiculous.
 

Tdol

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There is less of a taboo about the c-word in BrE, but it's still likely to cause offence in many circles. And any racial slang is extremely dangerous- it's the sort of thing that starts fights.
 

*Sama*

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American children learn the difference between acceptable slang and rude slang by getting chastised (or worse! ;-) ) by Mom when they utter something rude. Usually American children learn slang both by watching TV and also overhearing the conversations of the "older" and more worldly kids on the playground. If little Johnny says "son of a gun!" at the dinner table his parents will probably laugh, but if he says "son of a bitch!" they will no doubt react in horror and ask him "Where on Earth did you learn such language?!"

You can learn a lot of AmE slang by watching US-produced TV shows and films. In the US, every TV show and cinema film is assigned a "rating" which indicates whether the show contains profane language, excessive violence, or nudity. If your country doesn't use a similar rating system, you might want to look up the program/film you've just watched on the IMDb, which will give a very detailed breakdown of any objectionable language or nude scenes included in the show. If you hear an AmE slang phrase and are unsure whether or not it is rude, you can always look it up in an online dictionary - phrases that are considered rude or vulgar will be marked as such.

Thank you so much. You know the real problem here is when there is an American movie the Arabic subtitles is not accurate. Let me give you an example the one you used " son of a bitch" will be translated as "jerk" and the word "f***" will be translated as "dammit" so sometimes I may use these words not knowing that it's rude. I think that's the real problem especially when I count on these movies to learn more about American English.
 

*Sama*

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You don't have to use slang or anything you consider rude, but you will probably have to understand some.

How come when I don't really know that it's rude?
 

*Sama*

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It is difficult for non-native speakers to grasp the meaning and charge of that expression.
I used to think of it as a truly strong offensive one. However, I have two points:

1) In American movies one clearly sees that the expression "son of a bitch" is freely used throughout many speeches. It is so commonly used that it does not appear to be real swearing. In fact, many Portuguese subtitles translate it to a common equivalent Portuguese expression which is not so heavy at all.

2) The word 'bitch' stands for a female dog and it needs context to be an offensive one. See for instance the post by konungursvia in https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/other-languages/103926-um-norte-americano-no-supermercado.html

The bottom line: I think "whore" is much more offensive than "bitch", isn't it?

Thank you. That's exactly what I am talking about. The same thing happen here when they translate these kinda words they just don't give the real meaning of it which makes it difficult to me to know what is acceptable and what isn't.
 

euncu

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If you don't want to use those offensive words but still need to express your feelings along those lines you may use their euphemisms.
 

*Sama*

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If you don't want to use those offensive words but still need to express your feelings along those lines you may use their euphemisms.

actually I don't want to use them I want to avoid using them but how and I don't really know to distinguish between what I should say and what I shouldn't.
 

euncu

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You'll be safe if you adamantly shun them, but if you think some of them would be harmless and decide to use them, you may put yourself into an awkard position. So, if you'll use'em,be very careful. But if you never intend to use them, then there is no problem already.
It is actually not much of a problem. (or it would be). Most people, most naturally shape their behaviours according to where they are, I mean, with who they are, what kind of community they are in, etc. So maybe it sounds like I've been suggesting you to a bit feeling your way along in the dark but it actually is not the case. As another animals, people have instincts, moreover as social animals, those instincts would also work for the social interactions. (Unfortunately, it highly depends on one's social skills). So, no guaranteed methods I may suggest, just trust your instincts but being a bit prudent
would also work. (I guess, from my suggestion, you are where you were already, so, sorry for my not-being-so-helpful :-?)
 

philadelphia

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You know the real problem here is when there is an American movie the Arabic subtitles is not accurate. Let me give you an example the one you used " son of a bitch" will be translated as "jerk" and the word "f***" will be translated as "dammit" so sometimes I may use these words not knowing that it's rude. I think that's the real problem especially when I count on these movies to learn more about American English.

Do not watch films with your mother tongue subtitles! Watch films with either English subtitles or none so for you to understand English better and not to misundertand slang languages.

Nigger and coon are both offensive, but which is more? - I came across coon in an American movie
 

Heterological

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The use of "coon" to mean anything other than a raccoon is pretty outdated. It's offensive, but its oddness sort of distracts from that. It would be like if someone told me my mother was making the beast with two backs* with every man in town; I'd be too startled by the strangeness of the insult to really be too insulted!

*a Shakespearean euphemism for sex
 

*Sama*

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You'll be safe if you adamantly shun them, but if you think some of them would be harmless and decide to use them, you may put yourself into an awkard position. So, if you'll use'em,be very careful. But if you never intend to use them, then there is no problem already.
It is actually not much of a problem. (or it would be). Most people, most naturally shape their behaviours according to where they are, I mean, with who they are, what kind of community they are in, etc. So maybe it sounds like I've been suggesting you to a bit feeling your way along in the dark but it actually is not the case. As another animals, people have instincts, moreover as social animals, those instincts would also work for the social interactions. (Unfortunately, it highly depends on one's social skills). So, no guaranteed methods I may suggest, just trust your instincts but being a bit prudent
would also work. (I guess, from my suggestion, you are where you were already, so, sorry for my not-being-so-helpful :-?)

I think I should count on my instinct just like what you said and let me tell you that I am really grateful to you and all the people who shared me this thread and giving me advices and guiding me to right thing to do:)
 

*Sama*

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Do not watch films with your mother tongue subtitles! Watch films with either English subtitles or none so for you to understand English better and not to misundertand slang languages.

Nigger and coon are both offensive, but which is more? - I came across coon in an American movie

I think that's what I should do. I'll ignore the subtitles hopefully it's going to make me understand better.
 

Abstract Idea

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I think that's what I should do. I'll ignore the subtitles hopefully it's going to make me understand better.

The subtitles in your mother tongue also play an important role in learning English.
Depending on the level and on the learning goals of the movie section.
For instance, you could watch the same film more than once, one time with the subtitles in your mother tongue on, another in English and another with them off.

Finally, at somewhat more advanced level, trying to figure out where the subtitles translation fails maybe a good exercise. You can do it with some friends help, a teacher assistance or bringing some passages to discuss here at UsingEnglish.
 
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