It is no surprise that different cultures have their own unique ways of expressing themselves. Languages, customs and traditions carry their respective meanings and in the United States of America, the English language holds a special reverence. The American English language, that is spoken and heard in this nation, holds many sayings that baffle and confuse foreigners who travel to the United States. 

The many colorful American sayings that still exist today make complete sense to the American people, but sound like a foreign tongue to those who travel here. This article will take a look at some of the more well-known sayings that American’s often use and explain what they mean while also mentioning how they can leave foreigners puzzled.

What are some examples of American Sayings that foreigners find puzzling?

  1. “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

This is an expression used to describe a heavy rainstorm. Many foreigners are left completely puzzled when they hear this phrase. The origin of the phrase is still widely disputed although some believe it originates from old English literature.

  1. “She’s got it all figured out.”

This expression means that the person in question has reached a high level of understanding on a certain topic. For instance, they may have mastered a difficult equation or have a strong sense of intuition when it comes to a particular situation. To a foreigner, the phrase implies that there is a “code” that must be figured out in order to understand its meaning.

  1. “A real fixer-upper.”

This phrase is used to describe a place or object that is “troubled” and requires a bit of work to get it in tip-top shape. For example, a home that requires some renovations and repairs would be considered a “fixer-upper.” For a foreigner, this phrase could imply a criminal who is being arrested and is trying to put himself together and make things right.

  1. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

The phrase “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” is used to express acceptance and resignation to a situation, usually one you cannot alter. It is accepting the outcome and moving on to the next thing. To a foreigner, the phrase could just sound plain bizarre and unclear.

  1. “Go the extra mile.”

This phrase means to do a little more and put in hard work and effort for a result. It emphasizes the importance of going beyond the minimum and shows a level of dedication and commitment. For foreigners, this phrase is likely to puzzle them because it is not common in other cultures and countries.

Why are American Sayings Baffling to Foreigners?

There are many possible reasons why American sayings can leave foreigners puzzled. One of the biggest reasons is the difference in the language and the culture. For example, the British English language is spoken and heard in the United Kingdom and there are some differences between it and American English. Because of this, the understanding of some phrases can vary from culture to culture.

Additionally, the influx of immigrants to the United States means that many everyday conversations now involve people with different backgrounds and cultures. This can lead to some confusion as each one will bring some of their language and phrasing to the same conversations, which can sound confusing to those not familiar with them.

Finally, some sayings are used so often by Americans that they are taken for granted and can be seen as quite odd by outsiders. This is also because some American sayings have been passed down from past generations to the point where they no longer make sense to a foreigner.

What Are Some American Sayings That Foreigners Find Familiar?

Now that we have discussed why American sayings can be confusing to foreigners, let’s take a look at some of the more recognizable phrases or sayings that people from around the world understand.

  1. “A penny for your thoughts.”

This phrase is used to ask someone what they are thinking about or what is on their mind. It is based on the old British custom of asking someone for their opinion but with a twist. It has become a worldwide phrase, although the idea behind it is still rooted in British culture.

  1. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

This phrase is used to describe how quickly time can pass when one is enjoying themselves. It’s a common saying in many cultures, but it started with the American English language.

  1. “Break a leg.”

This phrase is used to wish someone good luck before they take on a task or perform in an event. It is a very understandable phrase and is now used in many cultures, although is originally rooted in American English.

  1. “It takes two to tango.”

This phrase means that it takes two people to complete a task or for something to happen. It can be applied to many different situations and is easily comprehended by most people.

  1. “The early bird catches the worm.”

This phrase means that those who take the initiative will be rewarded. It is mainly used to motivate someone to be ready and not to wait around. It is another phrase that is universally recognized and understood.

American sayings can be quite a puzzle for outsiders. These odd phrases, that may have been created in a previous era, are still incredibly popular in everyday use today. They paint an interesting portrait of the evolving American English language, and are a reminder of the many diverse cultures that exist in the United States. While some of the American sayings can puzzle foreigners, there are others that are very familiar and serve to bridge the gap between two different cultures.