Heads up … catch! This seemingly (or should I say “deceptively”) simple word is stuffed and loaded with different meanings. Do the many uses of “catch” confuse you? Here I want to look at the traditional meanings, as well as some common slang and figurative uses of the word. There are also short and realistic dialogues to help. So, are you ready to catch some knowledge? Let’s do it.
Normally, to Catch means to receive something that is thrown or has fallen. As people, we mostly catch things with our hands.
— “Look, Charles, I got you a new iPhone charger. Catch!”
While attempting to grab the charger, Charles accidentally dropped his phone onto the floor.
— “Gee, thanks! Now I’m going to need a new iPhone too.”
— “Well, you should have caught it before it hit the ground.”
Catch something (figuratively)
As you can imagine, “catch” also has several figurative and even slang meanings. As a verb, you can catch something not visible such as an illness or some attention.
— “Did you hear what happened to Kevin Hart? He said he caught the ‘Vid’,” Charles said to his friend, Jonah, sitting behind him. Jonah gave him a firm Shhh!
— “Be quiet, man! Whenever I talk in class, I catch an angry look from Ms. Delaware. You’ll get me in trouble.”
Another meaning is when you catch someone, or find them. Usually, this is while they are doing something they shouldn’t be.
— “Hey, Sheila. Do you think we could take your little bro out for ice cream?”
— “I don’t know. He got caught eating cookies out of the cookie jar last night. I think he’s had enough sweets.”
— “Well, we could always take him to the Salad Bar,” Charles suggested.
— “Oh, no. You won’t catch me anywhere near that place.”
Still, catch can be about meeting another person, in general. This is usually at a designated time or place.
— “I hope we can hang out soon, Sheila. What do you think?”
— “For sure! I’ll catch you after our game tomorrow.”
Other random meanings of Catch
To catch can be to understand what someone else said or what has happened. It’s usually said as a question to check for comprehension or as a way to show a lack of understanding.
Jonah’s mind wandered as he daydreamed about the upcoming game that night. Suddenly, he realized Charles had been mumbling at him for the past five minutes.
— “Sorry, what did you say? I didn’t catch that.”
— “I was telling you about my plans to quit working for this lousy school. Did you catch it this time?!”
… Or, going to see something, such as an event.
— “Do you want to catch a movie after you get off work?” Charles asked Sheila. She turned at him and grinned.
— “Yeah … Or, we could go to the game like everyone else.”
Or, boarding a transportation vehicle.
Sheila gave Charles a big hug.
— “I have to catch this bus. If you want to see a movie, it’s fine. Can we talk later?”
— “Yeah, either way is fine. Let me know. Maybe we can catch a ride together.”
Phrasal verbs: Catch on, Catch up
And that’s just “Catch” by itself. Of course, there are also phrasal verbs like catch on — to begin to understand something — or catch up — to reach a desired point in understanding or place from behind.
— It used to be so much fun to speak in German around your friends. I think they’re starting to learn now.
— Right, especially Mark didn’t use to understand our conversations, but now he’s catching on.
— It’s about time! Why is Mark so far behind in his German, anyway? He needs to catch up!
A Catch, as a noun
All verbs aside, there is also catch used as a noun. A catch is a hidden condition or problem when something seems too good to be true.
Charles looked at his neighbor in disbelief.
“You’ll give me this car for four hundred bucks and all repairs are up to date? What’s the catch?”
— “No catch! It’s a good car, man. What, you don’t believe me?”
A catch can also be a person who seems like a perfect match, or a great person to be in a relationship with. They are like the ideal partner.
— I don’t know why you’re so in-love with Sheila. Look at Jenny. She’s the boss of her own business, helps her community, and owns a Benz. She’s a catch, for sure.
— “Uh-huh, Jonah. Total catch.”
**These are just some of the main uses of “catch”. Can you think of any others meanings? Can you think of your own examples for these words? Share it with us and spread the English love! Thanks for reading and learning. Take care out there.
I deserve a Grammy! Come on, I know none of you would vote for me. Still, it takes guts to affirm that — positive affirmations — and that’s exactly what this music duo was doing. This cover for “Grammy” by Purity Ring was released as a single in 2013. It takes inspiration from Soulja Boy’s song of the same name on his 2010 album, The DeAndre Way. Below are the lyrics for you to enjoy, as well as the music video. I’ll also add the original song for you all to compare the two. Go ahead!
For better practice, try: First, listen to the song while reading the lyrics. This will help you get familiar with the sounds and rhythm along with the words used. Second, read through the lyrics without the music. Take your time and make sure you understand the words and meanings. Third, listen to the song without reading lyrics. Notice if your understanding of the song / words has improved!
Feel free to ask in the comments if there is something else you didn’t understand or want to know more about. Want more songs like this? Let me know! Now enjoy, and happy listening.
*I want to reiterate that I am not trying to correct anyone’s informal speech or grammar. As native speakers, these concepts come easier to us, but English learners may need help in understanding what the correct way to speak is so they know when and where to break those rules! Thanks for bearing with me.
“Grammy” (Cover) Lyrics – Purity Ring
Informal Speech: *”Because I’ve given …”
Music Reference: “Party Like a Rock Star” was a popular song by hip hop group, the Shop Boyz, from 2007, and this is probably a reference to that.
Informal Speech: “*Hit them with the hot bars …”
Slang: “Hit” here has a figurative meaning. It’s about the same as offer or give but in an impactful way. “Hot” here means something very good, of excellent quality, and impressive. “Bars” is a slang specific to hip hop and rap music, and describes the lines in the lyrics (like lines in a paragraph or story). So, hot bars are impressive lyrics, basically.
Informal Speech: It’s more correct to say, “Fast like NASCAR,” but she conjugated it as if she were only talking about a car, not the whole sports organization. “Fast like a car.” “Lime” describes the color of the car, green.
Informal Speech / Grammar: Normally for cities, countries, states, etc., we would say “Land in Miami.” (As in, land down in a plane). The conjugation is interesting though, as if she wants to land on top of Miami, making a huge impact.
Slang: “Grind” here means to hustle, put in work to make money.
Cultural References: S.O.D. is something associated with Soulja Boy, the original artist of this song. “Pirates” here probably was used to refer to the treasure-hungry and ruthless reputation of pirates, though it also refers to the famous Captain Hook, a pirate from Peter Pan.
Musical Terms / Figurative Speech: A “hook” in music refers to a specific part of the lyrics, similar to bridge and chorus.
Grammar: *”My lyrics are illustrated, my verses are taken from a book …” Literally, if he’s talking about Peter Pan.
Slang / Cultural Reference: “Crunk” refers to a popular hip hop dance style that was especially big in the late ’90s to early 2000s. It is known for being very aggressive, and some people refer to “getting crunk” when they mean to get aggressive or hostile.
Expressions: Being “at command” is being ready to do something at any moment.
Casual Speech / Expressions: “Papers” here refers to money, most likely. It could also be contracts or music deals. “Long acres” refer to big properties with lots of land.
Other Meanings: “No security” refers to how people who travel on private jets don’t have to pass through airport security.
Slang / Figurative Speech: “Ice” in this case means jewelry. I don’t know of any jewelry that is black, so Soulja Boy might just have been referring to the fact that he is black. “Black ice” in the literal sense is a very thin layer of ice on the road that can’t really be seen but is dangerous for causing skidding and accidents. Maybe the jewelry is so pretty, it’s “dangerous”.
Pronunciation: The “jury” is the audience who watches and decides on a verdict during a criminal trial. It also sounds like the way some American accents might pronounce “jewelry – jury.”
Slang: “Trick” here is a derogatory term against women. Interesting, since Megan from Purity Ring is singing it.
Figurative Speech: Also, a trick in normal terms is what a magician would do to deceive the audience, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Hence, “call it magic.”
Slang: “Money is long” means that the money goes a long way. There is a lot of money.
Grammar: *”And we are the measure(ment)”
Grammar: *”He is critically acclaimed …”
Expressions: “The rain” here means hard times and difficulties.
Vocabulary: “Change” is what we call coins or money left over after a purchase. If she has a million left over after buying, imagine how much she spent.
Slang: “The game” in this sense refers to a kind of situation or industry. Specifically here, it can be the music game.
Cars: This is the Rolls-Royce Phantom. “Drop top” means the top of the car comes down or opens, like a convertible.
Music Reference: The DeAndre Way was a Soulja Boy album from 2010. In the original lyrics, he’s probably referring to the image of his face on the album’s cover.
Slang: “Tatted” is a slang word for tattooed, like “tat” is for tattoo. “How do you like my new tats?”
Grammar: *”Have I not given enough?”
Then it repeats.
Thank you again for reading and practicing your English (or simply enjoying good music). Check Lyrics “Explained” to find similar songs and practice more. Make sure to post a comment or send us a message, if that sounds better to you 😉 Give Me a Shout! Otherwise, take care, y’all. Peace!
Modal verbs? What? As English speakers, we have lots of funny speech habits. To the average person, they may not seem like a big deal. But what about those that have decided to take on learning this complex language?
“Take on me-e … take me o-on!”
You can almost hear English singing in the shower. You might have heard such words as “shoulda” or “coulda” before. Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about here.
What are Modal Verbs, after all?
A modal verb is a type of auxiliary (or helping) verb. This just means their purpose is to help other verbs to make sense. Modal verbs themselves are used to show a necessity or possibility. These are words like could, should, may, might, would, and so on.
In the past tense, modal verbs are often followed by the word “have.” This lets us know they are modals instead of a regular past tense verb. How do we know that “could” is acting like the past tense of “can,” or if it is expressing a possibility? We know it’s a possibility when it’s next to “have.” Look at this:
When I was younger, I could run a mile without stopping. (past tense of “can”)
I could have been a track star. (past tense of the modal verb “could,” shows a possibility)
Remember, modals don’t always need “have.” Adding it is used to show that this necessity or possibility was in the past. The same goes with should have, may have, might have, would have, and more.
You Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda … Used Correct Grammar
The habit I told you about earlier is that many people turn “have” into a simple shwa sound (“uh”) when talking. They basically get rid of the “h” and “v” sounds. This makes could have sound like coulda.
I coulda been a track star. (could have)
This is so common that we have an expression to mimic this; shoulda, coulda, woulda. Or coulda, shoulda, woulda. Woulda, coulda, shoulda? I guess it doesn’t really matter what order you say it in. Some people say this to express when it’s too late to do something and the opportunity has passed. Similar expressions are “that’s too bad,” “too late,” or “keep dreaming.”
To take it a step further, “have” can completely change and turn into “of.” This isn’t grammatically correct, but it happens because some people might pronounce the “could-a” like “could-uv.” This happens when we mean to contract “could have” and say “could’ve.” The pronunciation of the “of” sounds very similar to that final “ve” sound, so it’s easy to confuse the two in everyday speech. Many people who even know the correct grammar might make a mistake when writing or speaking and say “of” instead of the short “‘ve” because of how easy it is to switch the two.
*Try saying could of and could’ve out loud. Do you notice how similar they sound?
Here are some more examples!
See, you shoulda / should of been more careful.
I coulda / could of been a millionaire.
She musta / must of been crazy to adopt a lion.
Thank you for reading! Check the Blog to see similar posts.
**Have a question about another English speaking habit? Is there something you don’t understand about the way people talk? Tell me about it and I’ll write a post for you, and offer other resources to better understand!
Contact me to collaborate or send a personal message at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Give Me Shout! page.
“Welcome to my house, we don’t have to go-wo out …”
It’s a good thing you didn’t hear me sing that! To pick up on the topic though, we’re going to look at some different ways to refer to someone’s house. Well, the most popular slang ways, that is. There are multiple words one might use to describe a person’s house in English, whether it’s yours or somebody else’s. Some of these words can make the house sound better and others are … a lot less flattering.
When referring to a small place (or when being sarcastic) people often refer to their home as a “humble abode.” Some people take it to the next level and call it a shack (hence the expression, shacking up). When people get a little carried away, they might say “hizzouse” or something like it. There are so many types of houses too. For example, a cabin, a duplex, townhome, country home, condo, split-level, etc., etc. Okay, swell. But what about common slang terms for a house?
From my African-American perspective, this has got to be the most common slang for “house”. Literally, a crib is a protective bed where we usually put babies to sleep. It’s a comfortable, safe place, so maybe this led to cribs being used to talk about homes. This is one of the more common slang words for a house, at least in the U.S. This is especially due to the show, MTV Cribs, ever since it started airing (and re-airing).
Do you want to go to the crib and play video games?
Spot has a lot of different meanings in English. Being slang for a house is one of them. Given all these many meanings of spot, it can sound a little more vague or ambiguous than other words when referring to your house. This is especially since “spot” is sometimes used to refer to a place in general. Note, this is very similar to the use of “place” to specifically talk about a house. Check the links below to learn more!
We should go to his spot after the movie. (Similarly, “go to his place”)
A pad in normal English is something nice and soft. It’s mostly used to soften a physical impact or any other kind of damage. I don’t know why we’d call a house that, but maybe it’s because a home is our safe place? So, possibly similar to “crib.” Again, these are mostly American slang, so I don’t know how extensively this word and the others are used in all English-speaking countries.
So, what do you think of my new pad?
So these are just a couple of the most common slang you might use to talk about a house in English, or at least the American variety. There are many other ways to refer to a house in an informal, exaggerated, or silly way. You can check the links below for more information.
Also, below is a short story with dialogue to show you how today’s words might be used in context. Check it out if you like! Thanks, and take care out there.
Soft Place Baby Bed – slang words for ‘house’
— There we are. Wanna come in?
Sheila turned a wide grin at her friend, Charles. In the happiest way possible, she urged him to come into her house. Charles, on the other hand, was utterly shocked.
— Wow, I didn’t know your house was so big, he said. — Don’t you ever get lost?
Sheila brushed away his statement and pushed him along. He had good reason to be nervous; it was his first time alone with Sheila, a friend he’d been crushing on the past few months. The friend zone is a hard wall to cross, but a big house with no one in it could be the “tunnel” underneath he was looking for. Suddenly, he wasn’t so nervous after all. They arrived at the front gates.
— Ready to see my crib? she laughed and led her friend further.
Once inside the front gates, they came to a yard filled with strange objects. There were plastic women and rubber bones lying on the ground. Mixed in with the dry scattered leaves, the yard looked like a sort of toy wasteland.
They eventually made it past the garden and into the house. Sheila shut the high wooden doors behind her and revealed her world to Charles.
— So, this is my pad. Sorry about the mess. I picked up a couple’a side gigs while I wait for my album to finish. Covid kinda ruined my schedule. I know! Let’s go upstairs. I can show you my room.
She stuck out a hand and grabbed onto Charles. Before he could figure out where he was, they had already arrived at her room. Was this his moment? “This is finally it!” he thought to himself.
The sound of a thousand babies flushed into both of their ears. Okay, it was just two, but they were yelling super loudly.
— Oh, crap! I forgot about you two!
Sheila rushed over to pull the two babies out of their tiny beds, repeating “Sorry, sorry” to them.
— I know you were talking about your house, but I didn’t know you were gonna show me your actual “cribs,” Charles told her.
He reached his arms out to help hold one of the babies. She cried for a minute but soon relaxed against his chest.
— Look at you! You’re a natural with the kids.
Charles felt extremely uncomfortable, but he couldn’t deny how nice it felt to hold the baby girl.
— If you say so. What’s her name?
— That is Janey, and this here’s little Maxy. She stroked Maxy with her hands.— Sorry I couldn’t show you the house. I know you really wanted to see more of my place.
That was just part of the plan, Charles thought, but okay.
— It’s fine. The house is really nice. But next time let’s go to my spot, alright?
Sheila laughed and agreed. After sitting a while the babies were finally asleep.
— Shh! Look, they’re sleeping, she advised Charles.
He nodded, and Sheila tapped the bedside next to her as if to invite him to come sit closer. Charles got up and sat next to Sheila. They smiled wide at each other, then he reached his hand over to fix her hair. Then …
— Oh, no, I forgot … I also take care of dogs!
To be continued …
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Let’s take it to the court! The back and forth of gossip and mundane chit-chat form a part of the day-to-day of socialites that Ella Yelich-O’Connor loved to criticize in her first releases. From her album, Pure Heroine (now somewhat of a throwback, right?), these are the song lyrics to “Tennis Court” by Lorde. This is for English learners who might want to better understand informal speech, common expressions, and other cultural aspects of the song. But don’t mind that, all are welcome to read and listen. Enjoy!
To maximize practice: 1) Listen to the song while scrolling and reading the lyrics; 2) read the lyrics and explanations without music; 3) watch the video and listen to check understanding
To read the lyrics without my explanations: Genius
Expressions: “Making smart” here could mean that they are trying to sound smart or be clever. Apparently, Lorde finds these conversations boring.
Common Expressions: Doing something “for the thrill of it” is for excitement, it’s something that is a lot of fun.
Slang: “Killing it” in this sense is doing something very well or having lots of success at it.
Grammar: This is a double negative, but a clever one. It’s a more creative way to say *”Always chasing a million things I want …”
Expressions / Casual Speech: “Full of it” probably has multiple meanings here. Normally, “full of it” describes a person who is very conceited, stuck up, and thinks mostly about themselves. It can also describe someone who is lying or being misleading. Taken together, she could be saying that she is “full” of the moment, living intensely by the minute.
Expressions / Slang: To get “pumped up” is to feel good or excited about something, usually because it makes you happy.
Social References: A “class clown” is the person at school that always makes jokes in class. They may like to tease other students or even the teachers.
Vocabulary: “In tears” is another way to say “crying.” Add that one to your vocab list!
Slang / Informal Speech: To “talk it up” is basically to chat or make small talk (have a light or random conversation). Saying, talk it up like “yeah” makes it seem like they won’t have anything deep or especially interesting to talk about, but it will just be to make casual conversation.
Common Speech: Using “pretty” like this is the same as “kind of” or “fairly.” I guess it comes from the same idea as “fairly,” actually. Not very soon, like tomorrow, but pretty soon, like in the next two weeks.
Alternative / Figurative Speech: To be “up in flames” is the same as being “on fire.” It is burning. In a figurative sense, it can mean that Lorde is having raging emotions, lots of bad (wicked) thoughts, and other wild tempers associated with growing up or being a teenager.
Informal Speech / Slang: To “f***” with something means to experience it or have experience with it. “—Do you know how to bake? —Yeah, I f*** with it.” This is obviously very vulgar and would only be used in situations where other people are openly cursing, so be careful! A cleaner way to say this is “mess with” or “get down with.” “I mess with it. I get down with it.” By “known,” she means “well-known,” as in when she becomes famous.
Informal Speech: To “trip up” can have a few different meanings. It can be to confuse, to baffle (shock), surprise, or even to make someone laugh. All of the meanings and more are likely in this context. By “heads,” she’s probably referring to their ideas, opinions, senses of humor, and so on.
Spelling Standards: Both “all right” and “alright” are accepted spellings.
Idioms / Expressions: “It’s half of the trip” is similar to the expression “it’s part of the fun.” This is usually said to make light of a bad situation, like getting lost on a road trip. “But getting lost is half of the trip!” In the lyric, Lorde could be referring to an embarrassing photo that got leaked online, and she (or someone else) got caught.
Figurative Speech: This seems like an invitation for us to watch her struggles and fiascos on our glass screens (TV, cell phone, etc.) as if we were Lorde’s nosey neighbors watching through our glass “windows.”
Looking at a kangaroo juggle fire can be interesting. But watching a kangaroo juggle fire is a lot better. The difference between “look” and “watch” is often a struggle for English learners to understand, but consider this; “watching” is like “looking” more attentively.
Look = just using your eyes to observe something.
Watch = looking at something and paying attention to / processing what is happening.
That’s part of the idea behind some informal meanings of “watch.” In some situations, people may use watch as a way to tell someone to be careful. This relates to someone paying attention, usually because they’re being a little careless.
Watch your step. The sidewalk is very uneven here.
This is similar to the term watch it which has the same meaning, telling someone to be careful. When said in a disciplinary tone, it can be used to warn someone about their (bad) behavior too.
Watch it. The drivers at this intersection don’t check for pedestrians.
You better watch it! I told you to stop being rude.
Watch yourself / your back / your mouth + more
Oftentimes, “watch it” can be short for expressions like watch your mouth or watch yourself. All of these have the same general meaning of being careful with what you say. We usually say this to people who are acting wildly, saying offensive things or simply behaving badly. You may also hear people use several variations of this, like “watch what you say,” “watch your words,” “watch your tone,” “watch your back,” and so on. That last one, by the way, is more of a threat than the others.
Nina from third period called you ugly? I hope you told her to watch her mouth.
Excuse me, Sir! You are being extremely rude. You need to watch yourself.
You better watch your back when you come around here next time.
Another precautionary expression that is pretty popular is watch out. Telling someone to “watch out” is the same as saying be careful. This is usually because something is putting them in danger, although the danger could be physical or otherwise. When telling someone to be careful about something specific, we would tell them to “watch out for” that thing.
Whenever they tell George of the Jungle to “watch out for that tree,” he always ends up hitting it anyway.
Those are some of the key points you’ll want to know about the expressions using “watch.” How would you use these in a sentence? Have you heard these expressions before? Let us hear your thoughts!
Below is a short story, part of the Adventures of Charles series where we explore the above terms in their everyday usage. If you like stories and want to get some reading practice in, I encourage you to read along!
Careful looking outward – Short Story
Nothing could be heard but the rush of the wind blowing into the open windows. The sight, on the other hand, was much more beautiful. There was a mountain on one side covered in emerald grass and a few heads of cactus; the dark gray asphalt extended and curved out ahead of them, lined down the middle with yellow stripes the whole way; the crashing waves of the ocean burst onto the rocky shores. The most scenic part of it all that Charles could place his eyes on was Sheila, who was sitting next to him in the driver’s seat.
–All right! You ready to drive? she asked him.
–Who, me? Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t driven since I came to this country. I don’t really feel safe.
–Come on, it’s like riding a bike! Sheila insisted.
The two hopped out of the blue BMW M and traded seats. Charles suddenly noticed how new and, especially, how fast the car looked.
–You’ll do fine. Just don’t crash us into the ocean.
Sheila said this as a joke, but it didn’t make him feel any better. Charles started the car, shifted gear, and drove off. For a minute he felt pretty comfortable. Hey, I could get the hangof this. He was so relaxed that he started looking off at the waves, the green hillside, and got stuck on Sheila’s charming face. From the cheeks to the eyes, down to the nose, and then the chin …
–Make sure you watch the road, yeah?
Charles suddenly jerked the steering wheel, making the whole car jump until he could settle it. At that moment, a big rig truck started coming at them from the other direction.
—Watch it …
When he saw the truck hurling his way, Charles panicked and turned sharply onto a narrow stony road. He kept going from there.
–I’ll hand it to you. I never have come down this road, Sheila said in a sarcastic tone.
–Where did I take us? Oh, son of a–
–Hey! Watch your mouth. There’s a lady present.
Sheila snickered at her own comment. Charles pulled the car over to contemplate. After about a minute, they noticed a rumbling coming over the countryside. They both looked at each other, like, What is that? A few dark spots peeked over the green pastures until the hills were suddenly covered with them. One of the creatures ran towards the BMW, apparently interested in the vibrant paint job.
–What are those things? asked Charles.
–You’ve never seen these? They’re called bison, I think.
And bison, they were. A curious cow nearest them was licking Sheila’s rearview mirror, comically trying to check her teeth. She gave a hard sneeze and fogged the mirror, then she ran away to graze on some grass.
Sheila then said, –Hey, I’ve got an idea. Put the car into reverse, and try to make it back to the highway.
–Why reverse? Charles replied. –Can’t I just go straight?
–There’s a lot more bison ahead of us, and if you scare them they might stampede. You just have to steer, you’ll be fine.
–That’s what you said the last time.
Sucking up all the confidence he could find, he put the car into reverse and started backing up. The bison initially weren’t interested in the two of them at all. That was until Charles accidentally revved up the motor really loud, and all the bison started to scatter.
–Go faster, faster! We have to get out of here!
Charles steered one way and Sheila grabbed the wheel trying to steer another. The bumps and stones on the ground made the car jump and shake uncontrollably. They crisscrossed through bison, being extra careful (or extra lucky) not to hit any of them. After being nearly frightened to death, somehow Charles was able to get them past the maze of bison and onto the highway again. To Sheila’s surprise though, one stray bison had made its way onto the pavement, and a car was coming right at it.
—Watch out, little bison! she yelled.
The sound of screeches and the smell of hot rubber filled the air around them. Charles and Sheila shut their eyes in horror. When they opened them again, they were surprised to see the other car stopped to a complete halt. The bison, probably the same cow that had come to Sheila’s car, was at the other car now, licking the rearview mirror as before.
–Oh, thank God, Sheila sighed. –That was too close.
Charles looked at her now, smiling.
–So, how did I do? Ready to drive back?
Sheila was quick to respond, “Ohh, that is okay. I’d better take over on this one.”
From Donald Glover’s initial “ya, ya, ya’s” to Young Thug’s closing mumbles, “This is America” has become such an iconic song. Pretty much every country has done their own spinoff at this point. But for those of you learning English out there, did you understand the lyrics? This post isn’t an attempt to explain hidden meanings in the video or deep explanations in the lyrics. I’m just trying to explain some of the common expressions and slang he uses in the song, things that might be harder for non-native English speakers to understand. Watch the video if you like and accompany the song. Ready? So here we go!
Society: This sounds like what certain prejudiced Americans say to immigrants or groups they don’t like (black, Muslim, poor, etc.)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
We just wanna party
Informal Speech: *We just want to party
Party just for you
We just want the money
Money just for you (Yeah)
I know you wanna party
Party just for free
Girl, you got me dancin’ (Girl, you got me dancin’)
Grammar: *You’ve got me dancing… Also, You have me dancing…
Dance and shake the frame (Yeah)
Slang: “Frame” here refers to the woman’s body.
We just wanna party (Yeah)
Party just for you (Yeah)
We just want the money (Yeah)
Money just for you (You)
I know you wanna party (Yeah)
Party just for free (Yeah)
Girl, you got me dancin’ (Girl, you got me dancin’, yeah)
Dance and shake the frame (Ooh)
This is America
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Slang: To “catch” someone doing something is to find or witness that person. It’s usually when you find someone doing an act that is not right. “Don’t let me catch you stealing.” “Slipping” here means to make a mistake or do something wrong.
Pronunciation: The lyrics I found say “now” but it sounds kind of like “no.” Gambino could be doing this intentionally. Either way, it has about the same meaning. “Don’t let them find you doing something you shouldn’t be doing, being weak, doing something illegal.”
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Look what I’m whippin’ now
Slang: “Whipping” in slang usually means to make or come up with something. It’s mostly used like “whipping up” something. Whipping can also have to do with cars, as in “Look what I’m driving now.” Whipping traditionally has to do with using a whip to punish someone like a prisoner or slave, or turning milk into a “whipped” cream, for example.
Pronunciation: “Now” here kind of sounds like “on,” so it almost sounds like “Look what I’m whipping (beating, hitting) on.”
Culture: The “whip” is also a popular dance, by the way.
This is America (Woo)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Look what I’m whippin’ now
This is America (Skrrt, skrrt, woo)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy)
Look how I’m livin’ now
Police be trippin’ now (Woo)
Grammar: *Police are tripping now…
Slang: “Tripping” here means to act in a way that is wrong or dumb to others, constantly making mistakes and bad choices. “My dad is always punishing me for stuff I didn’t do. He’s tripping.”
Figurative speech: His “area” can be his neighborhood, as in, he lives in an area with lots of guns. It can also be literally in his personal area, like in his possession. It most likely refers to America as a whole, though.
Slang: “Word” when used like this is just a way to acknowledge what someone says. It’s like saying “really, true, yep, etc.”
I got the strap (Ayy, ayy)
Grammar: *I have the strap…
Slang: A “strap” in this sense refers to a gun, gun strap.
Less Obvious Meaning: He has to carry guns, as if for protection or because that’s the stereotype.
Yeah, yeah, I’mago into this (Ugh)
Informal Speech: *I’m going to go into this…
Expression: “Go in” in this sense means to really do well, have a lot of success, really analyze, look hard at, and make an overall really cool song.
Yeah, yeah, this is guerilla (Woo)
Double Meaning: Like guerilla warfare where trained common civilians get involved in warlike fighting. “Guerilla” rhymes perfectly with “gorilla” which is kind of a derogatory term against black people. This is probably on purpose as if to say, “This is about black people.”
Slang: “Cold” in slang can mean a few things. It can mean that someone is “coldhearted” and doesn’t care about anything, or a mean person. It can also mean that someone is really cool and good at something.
I’m so dope like, yeah (Woo)
“Dope” can also mean really cool, something that’s liked by others.
Slang: “Blow” or “blow up” in slang means to come out and have a ton of success, become really popular. “Straight up” is slang that is usually used to agree with someone. It means something like “true, for real, etc.”
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Woo, woo, don’t catch you slippin’ now)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy, woah)
Look what I’m whippin’ now (Slime!)
This is America (Yeah, yeah)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Woah, ayy)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy, woo)
Look what I’m whippin’ now (Ayy)
Look how I’m geekin’ out (Hey)
Slang: “Geeking out” is to be dressed in a really stylish but kind of formal way. A similar expression is “geeked up” with about the same meaning. This phrase became popular when a style of dance called jerking got famous. This term also means to get high on drugs, but that’s different from what Gambino’s talking about. “Geek” traditionally is a mean term used to make fun of kids that are seen as nerds or who have awkward style. The meaning was turned to be stylish in a weird way. “Geeking out” can also be to show off one’s intelligence or get excited by “nerdy” or “geeky” subjects.
Figurative Speech/Dual Meaning: “On Gucci” could mean that he is wearing Gucci and is in a phase where he likes this brand. This could be that he is “on” this brand like a drug since we usually say “on” when someone is using or is addicted to a drug. That would relate to being geeked out/up from before. “He’s on LSD.” It could also mean he likes or is acting like Gucci Mane, a famous rapper. Being “on” someone can also mean to make fun of them, so this line has a few probable meanings.
I’m so pretty (Yeah, yeah, woo)
I’m gon’ get it (Ayy, I’m gon’ get it)
Informal Speech: I’m going to get get it… “Get it” could refer to making money. “Get it!” is often what people yell to encourage someone to do something well, like dancing. The way he says it though, “Gon’ get it” is used commonly to mean that the person is in trouble or is going to have serious problems. “Ooh, you broke mom’s lamp. You’re gonna get it! (you’re in big trouble)”
Watch me move (Blaow)
This a celly (Ha)
Grammar: *This is a celly…
Slang: “Celly” here refers to a cellphone.
Society: This relates to some police officers that shot innocent black people confusing their cellphones with a gun.
That’s a tool (Yeah)
Slang: A “tool” here refers to a gun, saying the cellphone looked like a gun to the police.
Society: They could also be using this excuse as a “tool” to get out of trouble.
On my Kodak (Woo) Black
Culture/Figurative Speech: Now he’s on Kodak, which is probably that he’s taking photos or recording what’s happening. Kodak is a company that has produced lots of photography products. Kodak Black is a rapper, so he could also be saying that he is acting like Kodak Black. He could also just be saying Kodak to refer to the word black, as in, he is “being black,” acting in a stereotypically black way.
Ooh, know that (Yeah, know that, hold on)
Grammar: *You know that…
Slang: “Hold on” means to wait, or also to be strong and not give up, not stop.
Get it (Woo, get it, get it)
Ooh, work it (21)
Slang: “Work it” means to do something really well, especially related to dancing.
Rapper: “21” refers to 21 Savage, a rapper in this song.
Slang: A “plug” is someone who provides illegal contraband for another party, usually drugs. It also can be just a person who has anything another person needs.
Society/Geography: He’s saying he has a drug supplier in Oaxaca, a state in Mexico. This state isn’t famous for drug activity, but he says it likely because it’s in Mexico, a country infamous for drug cartels. He’s not being serious though.
Culture/Sounds: “Blocka” is the sound a gun makes. They’re going to find you and shoot you, basically. This sound has been popularized by rappers of Caribbean origin and is now used by all kinds of rappers, especially in trap music.
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
America, I just checked my following list, and
Media: His following list on social media.
You go tell somebody
You m********** owe me
Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Black man (1, 2, 3—get down)
Culture/Music: This is a popular line in funk and soul music from the mid-1900s, made most popular by artist James Brown. He usually said this before he started dancing, which is exactly what happens in the music video.
Expression: To “get down” in music means to start dancing and having fun. Similarly, “Get down!” is what people yell when someone starts shooting a gun.
Deeper Meaning: A “barcode” is that black and white code that people scan to buy something or check the price. He could be saying black people are seen as something to buy or that have a price. Just objects.
You just a black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy
Slang: “Foreigns” are foreign cars. Rappers usually love to sing about foreign cars.
You just a big dawg, yeah
Slang: “Dawg” is a word that refers to another person, usually a man. It’s the same as dude, bro, etc.
A “kennel” is a shelter where dogs are kept. This plays on the word “dawg” from before, meaning he puts this man in his place or probably buries him in the backyard.
No, probably ain’t life to a dog
For a big dog
Understanding: These last two lines I can’t really understand what he’s saying, but this is more or less it.
“This is America” is such a cool song because its lyrics are full of double meanings, cultural references, and sarcastic criticisms. Again, I don’t really want to get into the deeper meaning of the lyrics, but it’s apparent that he is criticizing lots of modern hip hop. The video expresses this even more and his criticism shifts against America as a whole, even though he focuses more on the black experience.
Violence, racism, discrimination, and constant stereotypical pressures are just part of what can make life in America very tough for anybody, and especially the disadvantaged groups of people. Of course, black Americans are one of the greatest examples of this, and we see proof of it time and time again. The song is fun to listen to and dance to. The video is enticing with just as much meaningful content as the lyrics, and this song was a hit since the second it reached our screens.
There is a habit that many people have and, maybe, don’t know it. In casual speech, many English speakers tend not to form questions properly. This can happen on purpose so that the speaker can make themselves not sound too formal. Sometimes though, it can be an accident. Well, I’m not here to say whether it is right or wrong but just to show you English learners what’s happening when you hear this. To refresh your memory on the right way to ask questions, you can read this page. Read about other English speaker habits on the Blog. Following are two habits with asking questions that English speakers have:
Questions without “Do”
One of the most noticeable question-related habits is with the verb, to “do.” This little word is confusing for many non-English speakers, but it helps us understand that what we are saying is a question. In other words, it’s an “auxiliary.” With that said, “do” gets left out of a lot of questions in regular conversation.
“What you want from me?”
Correct is: What do you want from me?
You can see that “do” just gets dropped out. This also happens in questions that don’t have question words (AKA What, Where, Who, etc.)
“You have a dollar I can borrow?”
Correct is: Do you have a dollar I can borrow?
If you speak a language like Spanish, then you do this regularly anyway. “Do” just lets us know that we’re forming a question without having to change our tone of voice to sound more “questiony.”
Questions without “To be”
Another habit people have when forming questions is leaving out the verb “to be” where it should be.
“What you doing this weekend?”
Correct is: What are you doing this weekend?
Just like with “do” before, the version of “to be” (are) gets completely dropped. This habit is more common in longer questions. It would usually sound weird in a short question with only a few words.
“Who you?” This sounds weird. It’s better to say, Who are you?
Doing this with questions that describe an action is more common in general casual English. Doing it in questions where the main verb is “to be” sounds somewhat uneducated and very improper. In “What are you doing?”, doing is the main verb because that’s the main action. In the question “Who are you?”, are is the main verb because, well, it’s the only verb.
“What your name?” This sounds very improper. It’s better to say, What‘s your name?
Remember, people do this without really thinking about it. It’s more for you to understand what’s happening as opposed to trying to memorize this feature. This habit also can happen in questions without question words, of course.
“That going to be a problem?”
Correct is: Is that going to be a problem?
A Note …
These are pretty common habits for many English speakers, though not all. It can depend on region or accent, and some habits are more common with certain accents than others. Because these habits are widely practiced, many people don’t even notice them in casual speech. But beware; sometimes dropping the “do” or “to be” can sound very improper, incorrect, and make the speaker sound sloppy or uneducated. Listen to other English speakers and pay attention to how people react to the things they say. This is a good way to tell if that habit is acceptable or not in X situation.
“What __ you think about the new mayor?”
“__ They know they’re being watched?”
“__ He just say that?”
Without “to be”:
“__ You some kind of genius or something?”
“What __ we doing here, anyway?”
“__ That a threat?”
**Hey again! Thanks for reading and learning more, my wonderful reader. Continue to be encouraged in your learning journey. You can do it! And share with us anything that’s on your mind to share about this topic, if you can. Talk soon…
If you’ve been studying English, you know there are many possible meanings of the word “get.” There are so many uses that it has become notoriously difficult for English learners to know how to use. The past tense of that word is “got,” and it is no exception to this wild and confusing system of uses and meanings. I’m not here to explain all the possible meanings of “got”. Instead, I specifically want to tell you about some habits that English speakers have when we talk. You’ll be able to read more quick tips like this on the Blog. Hopefully, this can clear things up a bit more (or confuse you a bit more)!
Got and Have, which one is right?
One habit that many English speakers have is saying “got” where they should be using “have.” This is where “have” means to possess something or needing to do something. This use is quite informal and is used more in casual speech. Read more about that here.
I got five rooms in my house.
More correctly would be: I have five rooms in my house.
A similar habit that people have is in situations where “have” is used in the present perfect. We might mean to say “have got,” but “have” gets completely taken out. Here’s an example:
I got to leave in five minutes.
More correctly is: I have (I’ve) got to leave in five minutes.
Because most of the time saying “have” and “have got” means the same thing, it can be hard to tell which of the two cases the speaker is using. Either way, they are referring to possession or a need to do something.
In British-style English (British, Australian, South African, etc.), I notice it can be more common to say “have got” in place of “have.”
British: — Have you got any gum?
— I’ve got some. Here you go.
Neutral: — Do you have any gum?
— I have some. Here you go.
Again, I’m not saying only British-style accents use this. It’s just more common in those accents than in the American-style accents. And remember that all English speakers don’t have the habits listed above. Like any language, the region, social class, and personal experiences of the speaker play a role in how the individual talks. Still, you can bet lots of English speakers talk like this!
Read More Examples:
“Do you got a dress? I need one for the party.”
“Marissa got three kids? She looks so young!”
“Listen, I got to tell you something.”
“We got to go, hurry up!”
**Thank you for coming, curious readers! Have you heard English speakers talk like this? Do you think you could correct the example sentences with the right grammar? You’re doing great for seeking to learn more about this wonderful language! Keep on learning, my friends.
In this post, we will look at song lyrics from Nigerian artist Wizkid, along with rappers Drake and Skepta. The song is the remix of the original “Ojuelegba” from Wizkid’s Ayo album, which you can listen to here. This post is also a continuation of the series where we analyze English-language song lyrics for learners, called Lyrics “Explained”. I’ve mostly been covering songs from the U.S., Canada, or Britain, so this is a nice change-up (at least for one of the singers). It’s a good reminder that English is spoken throughout the world, and places like Nigeria make up an important side of English-language culture too. If you want to read “Ojuelegba (Remix)” lyrics without my explanations, you can find them here. I also got some help with translations since part of the song is in the Yoruba language. You can read more on Kilonso. Okay, here we go.
Song Lyrics (Wizkid, Drake, Skepta)
Ni Ojuelegba o, my people dey there
Other language: In the Yoruba language, “In Ojuelegba.” Ojuelegba is a busy suburb of Lagos, by the way.
Regional accent: Then in regional English dialect: “My people are there.”
My people suffer, dem dey pray for blessing eh
Regional speech: *”They all pray for blessings.”
Ni ojuelegba o, my people dey there
Dem dey pray for blessing, for better living eh eh
Are you feeling good tonight?
This thing got me thanking God for life
I can’t explain
I can’t explain, yeah
Are you feeling good tonight?
This thing got me thanking God for life
I just can’t explain
I can’t explain, no, no, yeah
Look, it’s gon’ be a long long time ‘fore we stop
Informal speech: *It’s going to be a long, long time before…
Boy better know, they better know who make the scene pop
Grammar: *Who makes the scene…
Slang: “Pop” here has the meaning of making something more lively, more exciting, like a party. “That place was popping!”
All I ever needed was a chance to get the team hot
Slang: “Hot” here can mean successful, famous, or anything similar to that. He refers to his group of friends and people working with him as his team.
Only thing I fear is a headshot or a screenshot
Grammar: *The only thing I fear…
Other vocabulary: A “headshot” is a gunshot to the head. A “screenshot” is a picture you take of your own phone’s screen. Basically, he fears either getting killed or someone finding out what’s on his phone. Haha.
Pree me, dem a pree me
Regional speech: “Pree” I think comes from Jamaica. It means to pay close attention to something. With a Jamaican patois accent, he’s saying that people are paying close attention to him, like the paparazzi or his fans.
Double meanings: It also sounds like “premie/premy,” an informal way to refer to people that were born prematurely. I don’t know if that was intended, but it could be an interesting way for him to compare these people to babies.
You know they only call me when they need me
I never go anywhere, they never see me
I’m the type to take it easy, take it easy
Idioms: “Take it easy” means to do things slowly and calmly, in a relaxed manner. “-How have you been? -Oh, I’ve been taking it easy.”
I took girls in the very first text I sent
I don’t beg no lovers, I don’t beg no friends
Grammar: Double negatives! *I don’t beg any…
If you wanna link, we can link right now
Slang: To “link” or “link up” is to get together with someone or to meet someone so you can spend time with them.
Skeppy, Wiz and Drake, it’s a ting right now
Names: Those are the names of the artists participating in this song.
Slang/Regional speech: Again with a Caribbean/African accent, Drake says “it’s a thing.” This means that they made something happen together, they accomplished something. “Thing” can have lots of weird underlying meanings depending on the situation and the speaker.
Are you feeling good tonight?
This thing got me thanking God for life
I can’t explain
I can’t explain eh yeah
When I was in school, being African was a diss
Slang: A “diss” or “dis” is something used to tease or make someone feel bad. It comes from the word “disrespect,” but has to do more with teasing or saying disrespectful things toward another.
Sounds like you need help saying my surname, Miss
Society: Having a foreign last name, Skepta’s teachers had a hard time pronouncing it when he was in school. This is a common occurrence for people who have foreign surnames.
Tried to communicate
But every day is like another episode of Everybody Hates Chris
Society/Culture: From Chris Rock’s TV show. Throughout the show, Chris suffers from racism for being the only black kid at his school.
Ever since mum said, “Son you are a king“
Culture/Society: This reminds me of “The Lion King” where young Simba is told that one day he will be king. I guess the idea is ever since he was a boy, a little kid.
I feel like Floyd when I’m stepping into the ring
Culture: Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a famous boxer.
Just spoke to the boy, said he’s flying in with a ting
Grammar: *I just spoke…
Slang/Informal speech: By “the boy,” he probably is talking about Drake. Saying the “ting” again, it could mean any kind of cool thing that he’s bringing. It’s something important.
We’re touching the road to celebrate another win, we’re going in
Idiom/Figurative speech: “Touching the road” means to go on a trip. It could be literally on the road, like in a car/bus. It could also be just going on any trip. To “go in” can mean a lot of things. Here it means to really enjoy something, put in your biggest effort, to do something very well.
Why am I repping these ends? Man I don’t know
Slang: To “rep” is to represent something, usually a neighborhood or place of origin. “Ends” I believe is London slang meaning neighborhood.
The government played roulette with my postcode
Figurative speech: “Playing roulette” here gives the idea of the government randomly choosing where he and his family will live. It appears that in London’s project housing system, that has been a pretty common practice. Also, Skepta is from Tottenham, a rough neighborhood in London.
All I know is it’s where my people dem are suffering
Regional speech: “Dem” here doesn’t change the meaning of the phrase. It means “they” or “them.” It’s sort of a Caribbean/African style of talking.
I seen it before, narrate the story as it unfolds
Grammar: *I’ve seen it before…
Dad certified the settings and my mum knows
My mind full of more bullets than your gun holds
Figurative speech: He’s seen or heard lots of violence, gun shots.
Now I got the peng tings in the front row
Slang: “Peng” is British slang for beautiful, attractive, or appealing. “Tings” here probably refers to women, so he has pretty women at his shows.
Saying, “Skeppy come home, baby come home!”
Other info: “Come home” might be telling Skepta he’s welcome to come back to his ancestral homeland, Africa.
Yeah, I love the sun but I respect the rain
Figurative speech/Double meaning: The sun usually is a reference for good days, while the rain symbolizes hard times. This is especially common in music or literature. It also could be a reference to religion. He can love the Son (Jesus Christ) but respects his Reign (His power and authority). I don’t know if Skepta is religious or Christian, but it could be a double meaning either way.
Look forward to good times, can’t forget the pain
Idiom/Phrasal verb: To “look forward to” something is to be excited for it to happen. “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!”
I was the kid in school with the ten-pound shoes
Society: “Pounds” referring to British currency. These are cheap shoes, probably in bad quality.
White socks, jack-ups and the pepper grains
Slang: “Jack-ups” refers to pants that are too small/short. “Pepper grains” refers to nappy hair or hair that is curly and kinky. It isn’t combed or brushed and has knots in it, so it looks like grains of black pepper.
Said they’re gonna respect me for my ambition
Grammar: *I said they’re going to …
Rest in peace my n***** that are missing
Informal/Figurative speech: “Missing” in this case really means dead.
I had to tell my story cuz they’d rather show you
Black kids with flies on their faces on the television
Society: Referring to the sad way Africans or black people are often portrayed on TV.
Eh e kira fun mummy mi o
Other language: More Yoruba; “Thanks for my mom”
Ojojumo lo n s’adura
“She prays every day”
Mon jaiye mi won ni won soro ju
“I’m enjoying my life, they are complaining”
Ojojumo owo n wole wa
“Every day, money is coming in”
E kira fun mummy mi o
Ojojumo lo n s’adura
Mon jaiye mi won ni won soro ju
Won ni won ni won soro ju
And the lyrics repeat.
Last Thoughts on Ojuelegba
Alright, we’ve got Nigeria on the list! This song has an amazing rhythm and is such a relaxing yet upbeat song at the same time. I recommend you listen to it if you haven’t yet. Throughout the lyrics, we join the struggles of growing up in the ghetto or in rough neighborhoods. There is some reflection of hard times, but also a celebration for how much better things are now. These difficulties have made these singers who they are today, and they’re proud of it. Nigeria does have a lot of English speakers, but the country is multi-ethnic and -linguistic. It’s great that we get to see some Yoruba and be more multicultural. In fact, that’s one of the best parts of English-speaking countries, anyway!
What do you think? Did you like this song? Can you relate to its message? And what about you who are from Nigeria or have visited Lagos. What can you tell us about it? Leave a comment below to share. Otherwise take care, everyone!