Share this article

print logo


We Americans are an eclectic lot, and nothing seems to reflect that more than our language. Between our regional dialects, the preponderence of teen slang and the general erosion of English as a language, it's pretty amazing we understand each other at all.

Pity the poor souls, however, who visit our shores from foreign lands.

Pity those especially who come here to live and work and have to learn our language to function in our society.

It is, to say the least, a perplexing language exercise. Just try to explain to someone from Japan what "He loves to shoot the breeze" means.

Or, interpret "he's sowing his wild oats" for someone from the Far East.

"He can't cut the mustard" would con-fuse anyone from anywhere else but America.

To bridge the language gap, along comes a book called "What Are Those Crazy Americans Saying?" (MPC Publications, Washington, D.C.).

Written as a quick pocket reference by Jarold Kieffer, it has nearly 500 pages of American expressions.

Although it is geared to those new to our shores -- called non-native federal and private sector employees -- it might also be a help to native-born Americans who haven't a clue what is being said to them.