American Expressions That Are Confusing To Foreigners

American Expressions That Are Confusing To Foreigners

HuffPost Facebook followers from outside the U.S. were asked if there are any words or phrases Americans use that don’t make sense to them as non-native English speakers:


1. “When I first moved here from Russia, I used to think the expression ‘it’s a piece of cake’ was extraordinarily confusing.”
2. “’Working the graveyard shift.’ A friend told me once that her husband was doing that and I thought he got a job at the cemetery.”
3. “When you pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘house’ and ‘herd’ but not ‘herbs.’”
4. “The phrase, ‘That’s sick, man.’”
5. “Pocketbook! How on earth is a handbag called that? It’s not a book, nor does it fit into a pocket.”
6. “When you refer to ‘fanny packs.’ Here in the U.K. fanny literally means vagina. I found that hilarious and struggled to keep a straight face whenever any of my American colleagues used the word fanny.”
7. “Taking a rain check still makes absolutely no sense to me.”
8. “Jelly is ‘jam’ to us. In the U.K., ‘jelly’ is a wobbly dessert.”
9. “Hitting everything i.e., ‘hit the gas’/’hit the light’/’hit the button.’”
10. “When people say ‘Yeahhhhh… nope.’”
11. “Restroom! Are you really resting?”
12. “Horseback riding. Where else would you sit?”
13. “’I cannot put my finger on it.’ It took me a few months to know the meaning of it.”
14. “Fall! The correct term is autumn.”
15. “Fixin’ to.”
16. “’Can I GET a coffee/milkshake/etc’ when ordering. No, you can’t go and get it; you can have it.”
17. “I always found the phrase ‘Don’t be a stranger’ confusing. The first time a classmate told me that, I replied ‘What do you mean? I can’t help it if I’m a foreigner.’”
18. “Silverware! what the heck? When most of the time it is plastic? It’s cutlery!”

I believe George Carlin already covered most of these. How did they manage to leave out the one about “How come you drive on a parkway, but park on a driveway?”