Microscholarship Winner: Sid Thatham

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Sid Thatham won $100 sharing his experiences with weird English words! Read his essay here.

International Student Voice Magazine is awarding $100 to an international student every two weeks. How do we pick the winners? We provide a topic, students write a short essay. 

The topic for microscholarship #1 was “weird English words”. Sid Thatham attending the University of Cincinnati was selected as the winner. His essay will be featured in the fall 2015 issue of International Student Voice Magazine. 

Read his essay here: 

During some point of our stay in the US (or even before that), most of us international students must have come across the term “Melting Pot”, while referring to the cultural pluralism in this country.  I think this applies to the American English as well, which I believe is ever evolving.  Having studied in India, I’ve never really had any difficulty in having a good grasp of the English language because we’re taught English just the way the Americans are taught, right from the time we begin to speak. It just happens that we speak a whole lot of other languages in addition to English. That said, I’ve had my “Umm, I-don’t-know-what-that-means” moments. Those and some “LOL-That’s-such-a-funny-word” moments. Here are some of them, most of which I found amusing and not confusing.


Recently, we were planning on getting T-shirts for this program that I am a part of at our university. One of the American students, out of the blue in the middle of the different discussion, said, “We should tooooooooootally quarter-zips for us all.” I was like, *blink blink*. While you can understand from the name, ‘quarter’ and ‘zip’ are kind of self-explanatory but she mentioned the word out of context. And I had a voice inside my head which said “Look it up, dude! Look it up. Don’t just sit there and nod your head when you don’t know what it means!” Turns out, it was a sweater with a zipper. Only, instead of a full zipper, this one had a quarter of the same. Felt dumb that I couldn’t put it together. But hey! In my defense, the word was used out of context when we were not talking about the t-shirts, okay? LOL.

quarter zip

As if regular American English words weren’t confusing enough, there is always the slang-vernacular spoken by people, especially in the movies and on Tv. I know I am not the only one who’s laughing at something funny in a standup comedy like “Hahahah…wait..haha..what does that mean?” *straight face*.


So, I’m watching this show called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, one of the American classics from back in the day I guess. In this one episode, Will (Will Smith) says “Yo, I’ma go get me some fine honey!” It took me a bit to realize that he was referring to pretty looking girls.  There are a whole lot of slang words that are used to refer to women in different cultures, this one sounded totally different. Probably because of the word “Fine” along with it.

fresh prince


Southpark. (I’m a huge fan) Chef (a character in the movie) is about to get married soon. The boys are over at Chef’s listening to his father tell them a story about the time when a loch-ness-monster asked them for “Tree Fiddy”. LOL I was cracking up. Tree Fiddy sounded sooooo funny. Tree Fiddy == Three Fifty. That’s $3.5. I knew what it meant, but I was so amused at how they pronounced this word and it sounded really funny. It’s one of my favorite words now. My friends ask me what time it is, I go “Fo’ Fiddy.” They give me this “Oh enough with the Southpark references” look xD   *still laughing*

tree fiddy international student voice magazine


There have been times when my friends and I have watched movies like “Saw” and they’d go “Oh god! That is so sick!” You’d have even heard people say that in reference to something disturbing on the news. But did you know “That is SO sick” also means “That is SO good”? It depends on who’s saying it and what’s the context. Sick means extremely badass or so much fun. For instance,  when you’ve gotten off of an amazing rollercoaster ride. “That was SO sick!” Get the difference?  Turns out, the word “ill” also means the same. Funny how in regular English, two words mean something and in English slang, they mean the total opposite. Interesting right? Both these words have just the regular meanings in India.

DAMN – The all-purpose word.

I’m sure you’d have come across a lot of words in your culture/language that is used for anything and everything. One such English word, that to my knowledge isn’t used anywhere else, is ‘Damn’. The all-purpose word. I can go on. Haha.  Funny word, this. Used to express surprise, anger, joy, frustration, annoyance etc.

Slipped on Ice? “Damn! That was slippery!”

Your team lost? “Well, damn!”

Had a fun time? “Damn, that was good!”

Somebody cut you off in traffic? “Damn you!”

Hot girl in the vicinity?

damn international student voice magazine

To be an ‘Ass’

When we speak of words in the American English being different from the ones in other parts of the country, the topic isn’t complete without making a comparison to British English. And for some weird reason, the first word that came to my mind is from this episode of a very popular Tv show Friends – The One with Ross’s Tan. Jennifer Coolidge plays a British girl called Amanda and ends up saying something wrong.

This episode. Ring a bell?
This episode. Ring a bell?

Amanda: Oh, bugger (Another British word, not used in the US) should I not have said that? Urgh! I feel like a perfect ‘arse’.

Phoebe: In America you’re just an ‘ass’!

Words that almost made it:

Crib: Slang word for house. “Aye, I’ma go to my crib.”

Ghetto: Neglected residential area of the city. “He’s from the ghetto.”

Jack: Nothing. Very little. “You couldn’t do jack!”

Dope: Usually means very good/excellent. “Oh man, the movie was dope!” But it also means inside story, marijuana etc. depending upon the context.

Want to apply for a microscholarship? Click here!

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