I love the English language. The way you can use words to express a thought or paint a picture is something that makes us human. However, some words do us no favors. I’m talking about English slang words.

Don’t get me wrong, I use a few of the following examples myself, but I’m all too aware of how they make me sound. Now, no one is suggesting that anyone should criticize another person’s speech. But unfortunately, the things we do and say make an impression on other people.

People judge us by what we are wearing, by our body language, and crucially by what we say. Yes, it’s unfair, but it’s also a fact of life.

Now, I’m not talking about regional accents or dropping your t’s and h’s from words. I want to talk about actual slang words in English that undermine our intelligence.

See if you agree with the following examples of English slang words.

12 English slang words that make you sound uneducated

  1. ‘Ain’t’

Unless you are starring as Eliza Doolittle on some London theatre stage in My Fair Lady, you should not say ‘ain’t’. Even spellcheck doesn’t recognize it.

It is a contraction of ‘am not’ or ‘is not’ and is a lazy way of saying either of the two. Although it was popular a century ago, nowadays it sounds common and uneducated.

  1. ‘Whatever!’

This dismissive term is best reserved for stroppy teenagers going through puberty. If you are older than 13, then you should have some sort of opinion and be able to vocalize it.

Saying ‘whatever’ is suggesting that you don’t care about the other person’s opinion and you are not prepared to give your time or effort to them. It is glib and rude.

  1. ‘No worries’

Do you live in Australia? Then why are you talking like an Australian? You might think this phrase has nothing to do with English slang words, but you’d be wrong. It’s becoming more commonplace in the UK than you realize.

If you think it is acceptable to say ‘no worries’ in place of ‘You’re welcome’ or ‘No problem’, would you also change ‘G’day mate!’ for ‘Good morning’ or ‘fair dinkum’ for ‘honest’?

Now, do you see how it sounds? It sounds a little pretentious, especially if you top it off with a slight Aussie twang and add ‘mate’ at the end.

  1. ‘Awesome’

Before you describe something as ‘awesome’, really look at it and think, is it awesome? If you are having trouble deciding whether this is the right word then here are some synonyms for awesome:

Breath-taking, overwhelming, remarkable, splendid, outstanding, magnificent, incredible, inspiring.

Now, take another look at that sandwich you just said was awesome. It could be tasty, delicious, moist, flavorsome, peppery, or filling, but is it really awesome?

  1. ‘Like’

When did it become acceptable to use the word ‘like’ as a form of punctuation in our speech? Like, I was going to like, try and explain, like, what this English slang word, like, sounds like.

If you want to sound as if you don’t know your subject well, then this is probably one of the worst English slang words you can use. It instantly makes you appear hesitant and devoid of any decent vocabulary.

  1. ‘Totes!’

Again, how old are you? Nobody over the age of ten should ever say the word ‘totes’ unless they are buying or selling shopping bags. And don’t even think about adding the word ‘emosh’ at the end.

That phrase is reserved for the use of love-struck teenage girls at sleepovers. Not for adults.

  1. ‘Epic’

This is another one of the overused slang words in English like ‘awesome’. People say it without really paying attention to the gravity of the word.

Epic is heroic, larger than life, grand, an extravaganza, impressive. Use the word epic to describe events or circumstances of that nature. Not your night out on the town.

  1. ‘Double negative’

These English slang words were a pet peeve of my father. He would shout ‘Double negative!’ at me from an early age, then explain what I had said wrong.

‘If you haven’t got nothing, you must have something’, he’d explain. Frequent use of double negatives shows a basic lack of understanding of English grammar rules.

  1. ‘OMG/LMAO/BRB’

Whilst it’s fine to use abbreviations like these with friends, it’s never acceptable in the workplace. Particularly in letters or emails. In fact, any kind of text speak or misspelling in written communication will instantly highlight a lack of education.

Leave text speak for friends and family.

  1. My truth’

This is a phrase that has come out of the US recently and has no place in the world. What exactly does ‘my truth’ mean? It means you can’t ask questions, you can’t probe this person. It’s a little like religion and faith. Because it’s ‘their truth’ it’s untouchable.

But you can’t have two different versions of the truth. There is THE truth and that’s it. Suggesting there is ‘your’ truth is subjective. The truth always needs to be objective.

  1. ‘Guesstimate’

An estimate is a reasonable evaluation based on the available data to hand. So what is the point of a guesstimate? You are just going to say whatever comes into your mind?

Why not stick with an estimate in that case? Guessing is supposing, conjuring, or assuming. It doesn’t take evidence or facts or knowledge into account. So why bother?

  1. ‘Literally’

Ah, our old friend ‘literally’! I literally couldn’t wait to get to this word. Many of us use this word to emphasize what we are doing. We use literally to make what we are doing sound more dramatic.

She literally flew into the house.’

The problem is that the word ‘literally’ means actually or in a literal sense.

For example:

‘The hurricane was so strong it literally uprooted several trees.’

A hurricane can be strong enough to uproot trees, so in this sense the word ‘literally‘ is correct.

But we have started to use the word literally to intensify or exaggerate a word.

For example:

‘He was literally in floods of tears at the tragic news.’

A person might be upset but could never produce ‘floods’ of tears, so in this case, ‘literally’ is being used as an intensifier and is wrong.

Final Thoughts

None of us likes to think that others see us as uneducated. One way we can avoid this is to stop using the above English slang words.

What words make you stop and wonder about a person? Let me know in the comments section.

References:

  1. www.theguardian.com
  2. www.businessinsider.com
Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Stephen Jackson

    Wonderful, Janey…and utterly futile: in the sense that nothing changes and the people who revel in these tiny abominations, these doses of linguistic headlice or an infestation of the crabs, won’t be reading you anyway.

    I mean, quite literally they won’t be reading: it’s just a massive vacuum in their education and their pronounciation that won’t never be plugged…quite literally and amazing (to quote several staple turns of phrase of the BBC). I mean, it’s actually amazing and massive and just literally amazing, I mean (if we are to learn our modish vernacular from autistic BBC4 pseudo-scientific pundits…are these really the successors to David Attenborough?)

    Another horror, spreading across Britain from the stinking pit of Estuarine English, is the glottal stop. Ei-een uh tweny ay winners wivvaht a cennimee er uh snow…wo evah ih meens. Lez hope fra be er or um.

    And the rest of us – in Yorkshire, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, East Anglia – who speak English more articulately, call only stare with open mouths at our screen and cry out, “WHAT????”

    (Beg pardon: “WO?”)

  2. Avatar
    Allmen

    Not one word but two words that should never appear together…”reason why.” I hear people say it all the time. My Grade 4 teacher always said we sounded illiterate when we said the “reason why..” Just leave off the word “why,” when you say reason it already invokes the why. So saying the “reason why,” is incorrect English because the “why” word is completely superfluous.

  3. Avatar
    Norm Thompson

    SO! Several years ago I wrote about noticing the occasional use of the word “so” to begin sentences and answering questions, numerous times by the same person making a continuing comment. It has now become as popular, if not more so, than what used to upset me when hearing the words “like or uh” when people would begin to speak. Almost every interview, when bringing multiple persons together, will undoubtedly have at least one and often several people utilize the word. So, I was just sayin’ it, like, virtually just drives me literally up the wall, I’m so sure.

  4. Avatar
    Pete K.

    I have one thing to say.

    Whatever.

  5. Avatar
    Leslie

    This is a phrase so not a word per se… “You know what I mean?”. Somehow all the people using this expression say it after talking about something ordinary and not hard to understand at all. Not only that but they get addicted to it. If you notice someone saying it you can count on them saying it several times afterwards.

  6. Avatar
    Maxim

    Saying ‘yeah” instead of “yes”.

  7. Avatar
    SS Parker

    It’s so true, I left my job as a teacher in North America, because it irked me the way students spoke English and the misuse of words and especially grammatically incorrect sentences.
    I know that English is a “living language” and new words etc. are always added, but the way some words are spelt, or the loads of abbreviations is just not what is acceptable to me… It’s gone worse since days I was a teacher, now I feel every few sentences or texts are with abbreviations , and I have to check in google the meaning! when I receive such texts.
    In this respect , I wonder if any other language has had such changes, French, Italian, German, ? I am sure its the same, just the time when old German and French changed to more comprehensible & easier, as education became widespread and was not just left to literary elite.

  8. Avatar
    Ross Attrill

    Isn’t this article a little pompous? It seems a little unfriendly towards Australians, Americans and young people all of whom have added lots of fun and colour (color) to the English language. Interesting how you accept ‘no problem’. Sounds like an American idiom to me. I couldn’t imagine the Queen saying ‘no problem’. Not that I have a problem with ‘no problem. 🙂

    Still – it is very true that in certain contexts, the quality of English we speak makes a difference, so understanding all of this is helpful.

  9. Avatar
    S C RAGHUNATHAN

    Quite informative and illustrative, thank you!
    Rags

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