The most interesting thing about teaching English abroad is that you gain an understanding of it as a foreign language that you have to learn. As a language assistant, I found that English slang can cause confusion. This became clear when I was chatting to a teacher I was helping. I was saying that it was raining. ‘It’s bucketing outside’, I said, using a common Northern Irish idiom. She looked confused. However, this confusion led to one of my most beneficial experiences so far in France – she was then able to teach me slang in French for 'it’s raining': ‘il pleut de cordes’.
The point I'm trying to get across is that being confused by slang in the beginning is perfectly natural because it is what makes our language unique. But learning some slang is a fantastic way of understanding the culture of another country.
English does have some tricky slang phrases. Here are some of my favourites which are common in Northern Ireland.
- To keel over: If someone keels over, it basically means they have fallen over because they have fainted or died. ‘He keeled over when he was out running last night.’
- To be in bed with your head: This refers to someone who has gone to bed because they have a headache. ‘I called round to see my mother but she was in bed with her head.’
- To upset the apple cart: This means that someone has caused a fuss and disturbed a situation. ‘The deal was nearly done but he upset the apple cart and our clients changed their minds.’
- Dead on: This means ‘exactly right’, ‘perfect’ or shows that someone agrees with what you’ve said. For example, if someone asks, ‘Are you all right?’, you can say, ‘I’m dead on’ to say ‘I’m really well. Or, if you offer to get takeaway pizza and your friend says, ‘That’s dead on’, that’s a definite ‘yes’ from your mate!
- What about ye, big lad/girl?: This is what someone would say to someone they know well as a greeting. An example of this is when you enter a building, see a guy you know, walk over to them and say, ‘What about ye, big lad?’, or, you see a girl you know and say, ‘What about ye, big girl?’.
Slang can be complicated to learn but it’s really impressive when you get it right! Slang also helps you sound informal and friendly, so it’s great for making friends. See if you can use some of these Northern Irish expressions in a conversation … people will be amazed!
Do you know any other English slang expressions?