Pop Culture Colloquialisms: Debunked

Colloquialisms are, by definition, clichéd, but they offer a certain allure both to the user and the listener. A cleverly employed saying can complement a conversation and cause others to laugh while, when ill placed, the phrases can provoke little more than an eye-roll.

There are a certain few colloquialisms that have so permeated mainstream culture that it is hard not to turn a corner without hearing one or two. Even in a faraway country, such phrases may be commonplace by those learning English as a Second Language, (and typically their usage of such slang is quite humorous).

The following is a list of the most amusing, pervasive sayings from recent pop culture sources. Embrace them. And if you don’t already use them, challenge yourself to use at least two today!

  • FML, or F- My Life. FML’s claim to fame is the website FML: Your Everyday Stories. On this website, one can submit short, humiliating anecdotes which begin with “Today…” and end in “FML.” (Don’t start reading the website if you have something to do in the near future – it’s addictive.) FML stands for Fuck My Life and is used in disappointing situations or to simply vent frustration. Using the full expression is often more satisfying, while the abbreviated term is best when typing online. Also has a famous cameo in the film, Superbad.


“I have to write a 10 page paper in the next 3 hours. FML.”

“A tree just fell on my car. FML.”

  • WTF? First brought to Internet-wide fame in “End of Ze World,” WTF? stands for What The Fuck. Everyone from my mother (no joke) to your 8-year-old neighbor was spouting this phrase. It’s used to express shock, dismay or confusion. Like FML, WTF is most useful when typing online, but you might as well use the whole kit and caboodle in normal conversation.


“WTF is that green thing growing in the back of your refrigerator?”

“WTF is going on?”

“I tattooed your name on my ass.”

(Though ‘mate’ is not normally included in everyday use.)

  • “…that’s what she said.” Made famous by the infamous Michael Scott from The Office, “…that’s what she said” took over every college campus in the United States, prompting an International “…That’s What She Said” Day on Facebook. There was a time when nary a day would go by when a “…that’s what she said” wouldn’t be dropped. While many such jokes get simply a perfunctory laugh, a well placed “…that’s what she said” can provide entertainment for hours, or at least 5 minutes of straight laughter. It is used immediately following a sentence, which has been said by another person, and implies that “she” has said something sexual.


I turn you over to Michael Scott…

  • Your mom… “Your mom…” is often intended as a silly insult, and is typically used when no other snub can be thought of. It functions much like “…that’s what she said” – it is said immediately after someone else’s statement and is finished with the other person’s original sentence. It can also be used on its own. It’s meant as a joke, but is usually very corny and generates only forced chuckles. There have been horror stories in the usage of this phrase, so you must be careful.

BAD Example:

“Dying of cancer is really horrible.”
“Your mom died of cancer.”
(The original speaker’s mother actually did pass away from cancer – I have heard that this has actually happened, but that may just be an urban legend…)

GOOD Example:

“I checked out your Facebook photos yesterday.”
“Your mom checked out my Facebook photos yesterday.”
(See what I mean? Corny.)

  • Referring to girls as “bitches.” In a not-so-pleasant turn, it seems that it has become more common for young women to refer to themselves and their friends as “bitches.” While it may be argued that women are attempting to reclaim the word, it does not sound very civil in normal conversation. If used, it is best when between close friends. Boys: do not try it on your girl friends – they will probably slap you.


“Hey, bitch. How’s it going?”

  • Referring to guys as “dudes.” Once thought of as a word for surfers and stoners, “dude” has become part of daily jargon, especially when referring to men. The popularity rose, perhaps, after the release of the film Dude, Where’s My Car? in 2000. Throw it on the end of any sentence to sound cool and laid back. Draw out the long U for extra emphasis.


“Just chill, duuude.”

(The noteworthy bit is at the end.)

  • Abbreviating. Everything. Abbreves. Abbreviating is convenient because not only are words easier to say, but it is also more fun! Half the time, people will have no idea what you’re talking about, so it’s good to do with a close friend when talking fast. It is also very convenient when typing online.

Examples (see if you can figure them out…):

Whatevs, probs, defs, natch, essentsch, usge (much controversy on how to spell this one), haps, stuggs, evs… the list goes on. Pretty much any word can be abbreved.

  • Word. “Word” is a way of affirming a statement or agreeing with someone. It is often used to fill dead airspace if no other word can be found. Generally used by those trying to keep up a cool public image, therefore, when used in the wrong context, it can fall flat on its face.


“I’m totally gonna show him who’s boss.”

There you have it, eight of the most widely used and easily recognized pop culture colloquialisms out there. Remember – use two today!

What other sayings exist out there? Don’t see you favorite one? Share it in the comments.

Until next time…

P.S. I wrote this piece in an attempt to get published on Matador Network, but it wasn’t accepted. At least it now has a home on my blog. 🙂

Author: Alaina

writer + explorer

6 thoughts on “Pop Culture Colloquialisms: Debunked”

  1. I totally won over a bunch of 15 year old Rangers (think Girl Guides) on Friday night by pulling a “That’s what she said” in the middle of a card game. Finally, I’m hip.

  2. Great piece! I adore that End of Ze World clip, and am tragically guilty of overuse of the word ‘dude’. I don’t get ‘bitches’, though, and the one time I tried to pull out a ‘that’s what she said’ it kinda flopped. So I guess I would give myself a 5/10 on the hip scale.

    1. Thanks, Camden! End of Ze World has always been one of my favorite online videos, I was glad I got to use it in this post. 🙂 And I use ‘dude’ allll the time, too.

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