American English Idioms: College EditionTweet
The struggle to adjust to college or university life in the US is not only material and emotional for international students, but also linguistic.
Campuses have their own language: a confection of catchphrases, slang and punchlines. Lording over these are certain perennial English idioms that define the US college experience, such as to:
- Play hooky: an undergraduate specialty, this means to skip class
- Hit the books: the opposite of playing hooky – studying
- Ace the exam: to pass an exam without difficulty (thanks to hitting the books!)
Besides academic expressions, there are various English idioms that color social life around campus:
- Sit shotgun: a car’s coveted passenger seat (prime late-night real-estate)
- Go out on the town: going to bars, restaurants, clubs, etc. with friends (in other words, a typical college weekend)
- Draw a blank: the aftermath of going out on the town, this means being unable to remember something
- A piece of cake: said of something that’s easy
Some English idioms are guaranteed to come only from parents. These aren’t the most memorable, but they are the truest:
- Money doesn’t grow on trees: meaning cash is hard to come by, so keep your nights out on the town in check
- The early bird catches the worm: be organized, motivated and alert and you’ll reap rewards (admittedly, not a piece of cake)
College is intimidating, but even something as simple as a shared language eases anxiety. And make no mistake: every campus has a vocabulary all its own. Enjoy the journey, but remember:
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew: don’t take on responsibilities you can’t fulfill, or you may find yourself playing hooky all too often!