Back in 2016, I spent four months living in the US.
I left my home in Glasgow, Scotland, for four months in 2016 to take part in a semester abroad at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. I lived on campus, took English, journalism, and creative writing classes, and on the weekends I traveled around the East Coast.
One thing that I remember fondly about my time in the US was the wide variety of new words, phrases, and slang terms that I learned while there. Here are some of my favorites.
Initially, I didn’t know how to respond when my US friends greeted me by saying: “What’s up?”
Growing up, I heard the phrase “what’s up” said by characters in American TV shows and movies.
But when it was said to me in real life, I realized I didn’t know how to accurately respond because I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be taken literally or not. Was it the same as saying “hey,” or “how are you doing?” My American friends later told me it was both.
Looking back, I suppose it’s the same thing as a Scottish person saying: “You alright?” which is a common way to greet someone and simultaneously ask how they are.
Similarly, “y’all” is something we don’t say in the UK.
The word “y’all” — an abbreviation of “you all” — is most commonly used by those in southern states. And while many people consider it to have originated in the south, some of the earliest uses of the word can be traced back to literary works published in the 17th century in London, according to Atlas Obscura’s David Parker.
The Scottish equivalent of this would be the word “youse,” a plural form of “you,” which is most commonly used in my home city of Glasgow, according to The Scotsman.
“Yinz” is similar to a common term used in Scotland.
Similarly, “yinz” is a term meaning “you all” which originated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to the Pittsburgh City Paper. I was surprised when a friend of mine first told me about the phrase, because it sounds similar to “wee yin,” a term used in Scotland to describe a child or a small person.
I started to say “garbage” or “trash” instead of “rubbish.”
Thanks to American TV, most British people are aware of terms such as “garbage bag” and “trash can” to describe what we would refer to as “rubbish” or a “rubbish bin.” Nonetheless, my family made fun of me when I automatically started using the US terms after four months of living there.
I asked my friends for “a ride” instead of “a lift,” which is what I would usually say at home.
In the US, asking someone for “a ride” is a common way that people ask to be driven somewhere as a favor. But in Scotland and most of the UK, we would be most likely to ask somebody for “a lift” instead.
The word “lift” has several meanings in the UK, as it’s also another word for an elevator.
In the UK, nobody refers to their university as “college.”
While in the US, I found it surprising that people referred to their university as “college.” In the UK, we refer to it as university or “uni” for short. We also have colleges, however, these types of higher-education institutions don’t usually offer degrees like universities do.
I knew what a freshman was, but it took me a while to learn the terms used to describe the other year groups in schools and universities.
In England, most people study in university for three years, and in Scotland, it’s four years. Someone who’s in their first year of university is often referred to as a “fresher,” which is similar to the US term, “freshman.” But other than that, we don’t have any official terms to describe the different year groups other than “second year,” “third year,” and so on.
It took me a while to learn the difference between a junior and a sophomore while in the US, but I figured it out eventually.
I learned many slang words that aren’t used in Scotland, such as “trifling.”
I was near the end of my time in the US when a friend taught me the slang term “trifling,” which has a couple of different meanings. It’s often used to describe someone who is cheating, lazy, or false, according to NPR.
It was used by former President Barack Obama in his 1995 book, “Dreams From My Father,” and by Destiny’s Child in the 1999 song “Bills, Bills, Bills,” NPR reports. Even though it’s pretty mainstream in the US, I had never heard or noticed the phrase before while in Scotland.
We have different words for clothing items in the UK, and I had to remind myself to use the word “pants” instead of “trousers” in the US.
In the UK, pants are called “trousers,” and underwear is known as “pants.” These weren’t the only clothing terms I had to get used to.
For example, in the UK we don’t use the term “sweater,” as we say “jumper.” And we also say “trainers” instead of “sneakers.”