January 30, 2013

cop a feel

Posted in slangs at 12:18 am by Feng

cop a feel – to touch someone’s body without their permission [thefreedict] (also see [urbandict])

This is an informal (and rude) phrase. On The Big Bang Theory, Raj complains to Amy that he feels lonely because no girls wants to talk to him. Amy shares the sympathy. “No guys wants to look at me”, she sighs, “Sometimes I have to pretend my left hand wants to cop a feel…. And I let it”.


January 24, 2013


Posted in slangs at 10:15 pm by Feng

pants – adjective. British slang. Not good; total crap; nonsense; rubbish; bad [urbandict]

Someone bought some take-away food for lunch. The package looked attractively nice, but after removing the package, she found the food not that great. “Hum..”, she said with a grunt: “The lunch is pants!”

December 26, 2012

Hail Mary

Posted in slangs at 7:28 pm by Feng

Hail Mary – (American football Slang) a very long high pass into the end zone, made in the final seconds of a half or of a game [thefreedict]. Also used as “Hail Mary pass” [wikipedia].

On the Homehand, Saul went to visit a jailed terrorist Aileen, hoping she could help identify an unknown terrorist in a picture. When Carrie told Quinn, another CIA agent, about this, Quinn was not impressed. “Rattle a chick that has been locked up for months?” he said with a scorn. “It’s a Hail Mary.”  Said Carrie.

I was wondering why Hail Mary, a religious term, was used to refer to a last-ditch attempt. Apparently, the slang was originally from a football game in 1975. With two seconds left on the game clock, Roger Staubauk threw a long pass to Drew Person, his fellow team mate, who caught the ball in the end zone to beat the Vikings. According to wikipedia, after the game, Roger recalled: “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.” This phrase became popular since then.

May 25, 2012

all fur coat and no knickers

Posted in slangs at 12:05 am by Feng

all fur coat and no knickers: superficially elegant and beautiful but actually sleazy [wikitionary]

I recently attended a seminar where the speaker talked big visions of future work but there was no real content in the talk. I said to a colleague that I felt like eating a gigantic burger without finding any beef. She told me the alternative English expression is: all fur coat and no knickers.

October 12, 2010


Posted in slangs at 2:14 pm by Feng

naff –  ( Brit) inferior; in poor taste [dict]

Someone bought a new piece of hardware from QNAP. But, after fiddling with the installation for two weeks, he still couldn’t get it running. “That QNAP company should re-brand itself to Q-naff“, he joked. If you know what “naff” means, you know it’s a pun.

August 25, 2010

dumb as a butt

Posted in slangs at 2:53 pm by Feng

dumb as a butt — I didn’t find an on-line reference for this phrase, but the meaning is quite intuitive if you know that “butt” is a slang word for “buttocks” (see [answers])

Security and usability are two sometimes opposing concepts. Security people are keen to make the system as most secure as possible, and wouldn’t care much about usability. The X509 certificate in the browser is a classic example of failure in understanding usability. One opinion is that if the user clicks the wrong button to accept the rogue certificate, doesn’t read the certificate carefully or ignores the expiry warning, then he is the one to blame for the security breach. A colleague comments on this opinion as “dumb as a  butt“. It’s an interesting expression.

March 23, 2009

faff about

Posted in slangs at 6:42 pm by Feng

faff about – To waste time on an unproductive activity [wiktionary][urbandict]

Designing a new product is all about balancing trade-offs – how to get the best out of the limited budget. Someone propoosed to add a feature to the product, but was objected by another: “It looks nice but is not essential. I don’t think it is worth one month time faffing about how to implment it.” This phrase is mainly used in the British English (according to wiki). So if you say it to an American, you may get a puzzled look.

March 15, 2009

love handles

Posted in slangs at 8:30 pm by Feng

love handles – excess fat around the waistline (often used in the plural) [dict]

I wonder why they are called “love handles“, maybe because they provide a soft place to rest one’s hand while one’s arm is around a person. Just maybe, don’t take it too seriously. It helps memorize.

One synonym is “spare tire”, whose meaning is intuitive though less vivid.

December 1, 2008

big cheese

Posted in slangs at 12:49 am by Feng

big cheese – a very important or influential person [dict]

A colleague passed me a paper and asked me: “do you know the second author of this paper?” He continued: “You should know him. He is a professor in Oxford, a big cheese in the field.”

April 14, 2008

knocked up

Posted in slangs at 11:25 pm by Feng

knocked up — pregnant [dict]

On the latest issue of Reader’s Digest, a woman tells a story from her experience — once during rush hour, she was accompanying her very pregnant colleague to cross the street. They dodged cars and ignored the hooting. Then they heard a furious driver shouting: “Hey! You can get knocked down too, you know!”

September 6, 2007

tap that ass

Posted in slangs at 3:05 pm by Feng

tab tap that ass — a vulgar slang for sex [urbandict].

One night, people in our research group went out to celebrate for someone passing the PhD viva. In the pub, an American guy wanted to make fun of a British chap, who seemed to really hit it off with a girl he just met. The American sent him a text message: “Tab Tap that“. After taking a mouthful of beer, he said to me: “I bet he won’t understand. He is British.” I heard this phrase on some American movies before.

June 15, 2007

son of a gun

Posted in slangs at 4:49 pm by Feng

son of a gun — a rascal; a scamp [answers]

On ‘Frasier’, Frasier meets Roz’s family, pretending to be her boyfriend, Roger. The family are delighted to meet “Roger” finally. One of Roz’s relatives greets Frasier: “Hey you, son of a gun.” In some dictionaries, the phrase “son of a gun” is defined as a euphemism for “son of a bitch” (see here). So don’t over use it 😉

June 14, 2007

have no beef with someone

Posted in slangs at 10:33 am by Feng

have no beef with someone — have no quarrel with. “Beef” here has the meaning of “complaint” [answers]

On ‘Rambo: First Blood II’, Rambo found himself in a one man war against the whole police force of a town. From a hill, he jumped upon an army truck and took the driver by surprise.  Just before being kicked out of the truck, the poor diver begged: “Please don’t do that. I have got no beef with you.”

April 24, 2007

make a pass at someone

Posted in slangs at 9:59 am by Feng

make a pass at someone — to act toward someone in a way that shows a sexual interest in them [thefreedict]

On “When Harry met Sally”, Sally recalled the day when she first met Harry: “He tried to make a pass at me, and when I said no, he was going with a girlfriend of mine”.

April 18, 2007

hop up

Posted in slangs at 9:55 am by Feng

hop up — to excite; make enthusiastic [dict]

On a TV show, a group of friends are rehearsing a play. One guy is apparently excited to get a role. However, he doesn’t follow the script. Instead, he improvises his lines, imitates others’ speaking and makes funny noise. When his friends give him an angry look, he excuses himself: “Sorry, I am hopped up.”

October 17, 2006

a wuss

Posted in slangs at 12:19 pm by Feng

wuss — A person regarded as weak or timid and especially as unmanly [dict]

If a guy acts like a baby or a girl, one may say to him: “Don’t be such a wuss (or be wussy)”. This phrase seems common in daily conversations.

July 27, 2006

we didn’t click

Posted in slangs at 9:58 am by Feng

click — to function well together; hit it off [dict]

On ‘Monk’, Monk has a lot of phobias, and generally is not easygoing with people. He changed three working partners in two weeks. “We really didn’t click,” he explained.

July 21, 2006

suck it up

Posted in slangs at 9:59 am by Feng

suck it up — get up and do it, be strong, do not be a quitter [westhost][dict]

On ‘Monk’, Monk and Sharona are visiting a circus for a crime investigation. However, it turns out that Sharona has an awestruck feeling about elephants, which is rooted to a traumatic experience in her childhood. Monk is amused and lectures her: “Come on, suck it up!” However, this really pisses Sharona off, since Monk himself has a lot of phobias, like fearing dust, milk, height, and to shake hands with strangers.

July 5, 2006


Posted in slangs at 10:10 am by Feng

loaded — very rich [urban]

On ‘CSI’, the officers asked a student some questions about his roommate. The student said: “This guy is generous. His Dad is loaded.”

June 8, 2006

cash cow

Posted in slangs at 9:45 am by Feng

cash cow — A steady dependable source of funds or income [dict]

In Chinese, we have a phrase "money-dropping tree" — the tree grows full of money and one simply shakes it to reap endlessly. I found the English equivalent on 'Desperate Housewives'. "I am a professional model," Gabrielle said proudly, "My face is a cash cow."

May 24, 2006

wacky story

Posted in slangs at 9:53 am by Feng

wacky — Crazy; silly [dict]

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a very entertaining seminar on compromising locks by bumping. The invited speaker demonstrated an easy way of opening a lock with a gentle whack. It was a very impressive talk. The general principle behind is Newton's third law of motion — simply put, when you hit something, you get a rebound. It's easy to find a key which can be inserted into the keyhole of a target lock. A gentle turn of the key applies a torque force to suppress the movements of the bottom pins inside the lock. Then, a mere whack on the the lock surface rebounds the upper pins and achieves the "Holy Grail" in lock-picking — the upper pins are aligned in the sheer line. Given a few trials to get the timing right, one can open the lock in less than 5 seconds. The audience were overwhelmed. One asked, "I once heard a wacky story that someone injects the compressed air into the keyhole to open the lock." The speaker smiled and said, "Why bother if things can be done in a simpler way." This is a real threat, and people should at least be aware of this problem. Welcome to the world of insecurity!

March 21, 2006


Posted in slangs at 9:42 am by Feng

two-time — To be unfaithful to [dict]

In Desperate Housewives, when Susan was in hospital, waiting for the operation, a young doctor fell in love with her. A nurse, who had a crush on the doctor, felt jealous. When she discovered that Susan was still married, she angrily questioned Susan why she cheated the doctor. Susan tried hard to explain that the reason she didn’t tell the doctor was to protect him. Finally, the nurse believed her and said, “OK, as along as you are not two-timing him.”

March 14, 2006


Posted in slangs at 11:33 am by Feng

goody-two-shoes (goody-goody) — One who is always good and virtuous [dict] [origin]

(From the discussion in ukcrypto)

— “OK, truth time: hands up those who never practiced a parent’s signature for some nefarious purpose (often school linked)?”
— “At the risk of sounding like a goody-two-shoes, I can say I never did.”

March 9, 2006

booty call

Posted in slangs at 10:21 am by Feng

booty call — a vulgar slang for having sex, see [urban]

In “Two and a Half Man”, Alan hooked up with a 22-year old over-exuberant girl. One day, when Alan was having meal with his 8-year old son Jake, his girlfriend rang the door bell and shouted, “Alan, I come to surprise you with the booty call.” Jake turned to his uncle, Charlie, for the meaning. Charlie made a face and said why not ask your father; so did Jake. Alan, in front of his girlfriend, made a great effort to sugarcoat this phrase, by telling Jake stories about old-time cowboys. Finally, his girlfriend was amused, and said, “You make it fun. But since when did it not mean casual sex.”

March 6, 2006

pump up

Posted in slangs at 4:36 pm by Feng

pump up — do body-building [dict]

In “CSI”, a plastic card was found in the pocket of a burned body. A guy quickly recognized that it was a gym membership card, as he had one too. His colleague was amused and asked him, “When did you start pumping up?”

February 28, 2006

I’m such a dingus

Posted in slangs at 10:04 am by Feng

dingus — another word for a spaz [dict]

In Friends, Phoebe asked a guy why he was always following her. It turned out that guy, named Malcolm, mixed up Phoebe with her twin sister. “I am stalking the wrong woman,” he blamed himself, “I am such a dingus!”

February 6, 2006

going postal

Posted in slangs at 10:27 am by Feng

going postal — be extremely angry, in an outburst of violence [dict] [wiki]

I countered encountered this “going postal” in Schneier’s blog. A bit research on it reveals the gruesome origin of this phrase. On 20 August, 1986, in Edmond, Oklahoma, a postman shot dead fourteen of his colleagues and wounded six. This mass-killing event gave rise to the term “going postal“. (History repeated itself a few days ago, see news). For the past 20 years, this slang has been used with dark humor. An example usage is this — “The next time Jerry Rice goes four quarters without a touchdown, some NFL cornerback is sure to explain that he ‘defensed him pretty good.’ It’s enough to make a grammar purist go postal.”

February 3, 2006

hook up

Posted in slangs at 11:02 am by Feng

hook up — to 1) meet, or 2) be sexually involved with [dict]

Native English speakers often use “I will hook up with you later” to mean “I will meet you later”. However, from the dictionary, this phrase also has “that” connotation. Would it be embarrassing if it is wrongly used as in the case of “be intimate with“? I asked a native speaker this question. He clarified that unlike the phrase “be intimate with”, the meaning of “hook up” largely depends on the context and is usually clear — e.g., if you say ‘let’s hook up after the lecture and discuss your plan’, there is no room for misinterpretation. “But if you are in a pub, sitting next to a hot girl you just met, and say ‘let’s hook up after the drink’, it will be interpreted differently”, he explained with a grin.

February 1, 2006

dead meat

Posted in slangs at 10:10 am by Feng

dead meat — death [dict]

Chinese friends sometimes kid each other by threatening: “if you dare to go against me, you are sure to die.” The native English expression is “you are dead meat“. The word “meat” makes the sentence a bit funny.

December 14, 2005

put out

Posted in slangs at 10:58 am by Feng

put outto make efforts. The meaning in the example below is: to be sextually active [dict]. (also see comments)

Phoebe went on a date with a guy she really liked. She made efforts to impress him, but the guy stayed indifferent to this relationship. After the date, Joey asked Phebe: “The guy still won’t put out, huh?”