Heptune's Page of Cheesy American English Usage

We have enjoyed collecting the following entertaining peculiarities of American English usage that we have heard since moving to the United States mainland. We don't find these things annoying or offensive, just somewhat cheesy.

1) The cheesy use of "one":

        This is most commonly seen in books and movies about tragedies happening to women, as in:

"One woman's fight against......." (fill in any horrible thing such as cancer, alcoholism, abuse) or "One woman's struggle with ......." or "One woman's triumph over..."

This probably originated as a dramatic  version of  "A woman's ...," but has since become a cliché used for any female hardship story.

2) The cheesy use of "that":

 a) Used to smugly admonish a new or expectant mother about the care of her baby, or to talk about such a woman in a disapproving way to a third party, as in:

"Now, dear, you need to pull yourself together and take care of that baby." or  "I don't know how she expects to feed that baby."

"Your baby" or "her baby" would sound less smug.

b) Used mainly in advertising to refer in a falsely personal way to people and events assumed to be part of the listener's life:

"That certain someone.... "   "That important meeting with the boss..."  "That special party..."
 

3) The cheesy use of personal possessive pronouns:

a) This is seen most commonly when talking about hunting, as in:

"Did you get your deer?"  "He got his moose."

This suggests that the conquest of the animal was fate.  In hunting lingo, one never says, "Did he get a deer?"

b) This is also used when reciting lists:

"If you're going camping, you gotta have your flashlight, your bug repellent, your kerosene stove..."

This is commonly done using List Voice; see item #14.
 

4) The cheesy use of "the":

a) You'll hear this one when a person is asking about the afflicted body part of another person, as in:

"How's the leg?"

This is used instead of, "How is your leg?"  The implication to us is that the afflicted body part has become such an all-consuming object of interest to the affected person that it is perceived as the only such body part in the world.

b) Men use "the" instead of "your" when asking about a spouse:

"How's the wife?"  "How's the hubby?"

For some reason, the use of "the" necessitates the use of "hubby" rather than "husband."
 

5) Good eatin'.

As far as we have been able to discern, the term "good eatin"" can only be used to describe the excellent qualities of food caught, killed or grown by the individual using the term. Thus, you can refer to a fish you caught, a deer you killed, or a tomato you grew as "good eatin'," as in:

"That trout was good eatin', let me tell you!"

You never hear anyone refer to restaurant food, even gourmet restaurant food, as "good eatin'." It is generally not even used for home-cooked meals if the ingredients were purchased rather than hunted, grown or gathered.
 

6) And I'm like...

This expression is used by college students to mean, "I said." It is used in recounting conversations to one's friends, as in:

"And I'm like, 'Oh, my God!' and she's like, 'Whatever!' and I'm like, 'I am so not going there,' and she's like, 'Yeah,' and I'm like."

Yes, they end these accounts with "and I'm like." We think it's a verbal way of keeping their options open.
 

7) Missing conjunctions

You see this in artsy writing about sex, as in:

"He stroked her thighs, her sex." "He hadn't realized how long he had wanted her, needed her."

They never write, "He stroked her thighs and her sex."  "He hadn't realized how long he had wanted and needed her."

We are not familiar with any other context in which artsy missing conjunctions are used.
 

8) Cheesy abbreviations

These are used almost exclusively in advertising and other low-quality literature aimed at children, as in:

"Collect 'em all!"  "Li'l Billy 'n' friends"
 

9) The cheesy use of "little"


This is used in a mildly self deprecating way in a number of situations, as follows:

a) Singers and other musicians always use it when introducing a song they wrote themselves, as in:

"Now I'm gonna play you a little number I wrote last night."  "This is a little song I wrote for a friend when she was expecting her first child."

Singers will even elaborate their "little" by modifying it with "kind of," as follows:

"This is kind of a little love song I wrote."

You just listen to them! They all do it!

b) People use it when giving someone a gift, especially if the gift is not expected by the receiver, as in:

"I got you a little something. I hope you don't mind."
 

10) The cheesy use of "question"

Some people use the word "question" by itself to mean, "I have a question," or "May I ask a question?" as in:

"Question." This is followed by the question, as advertised.
 

11) Cheesy word-order reversals

The most commonly heard example of this is:

"What can I do you for?"
 

12) Self-referential mommies

a) Many American women use "Mommy" as a pronoun intend of "I" or "me," as in:

"Mommy is getting very angry!"  "Now, Mackenzie, you listen to Mommy!"

The implication seems to be that the child needs a constant reminder as to the identity of "Mommy."

b) Similarly, you will hear grown women say,

"I'm Jessica's mommy."

This is used instead of the more dignified, "I'm Jessica's mother." This is very cheesy!
 

13) "Gotta have my..."

In cheesy modern American lingo, this phrase is used to express an intense liking for something, generally a trendy thing, as in:

"Gotta have my latte."  "Gotta have my Bruce Springsteen."  "Gotta have my cell phone."  "Gotta have my SUV."

 

14) List voice

List voice is an intonation style used when recounting lists of items or events. To do list voice, you start off the sentence normally, and then lapse into a slow, nasal sing-song when you get to the items in the list:

"To be prepared for a bioterrorist attack, you gotta have your boooottled waaater, your caaanned fooood, your Cipro antibioootic... "

Observe also that list voice also commonly involves cheesy use of personal possessive pronouns (see item #3).

 

15) Poetry voice

Poetry voice is an intonation style used for reading or reciting poetry. Poetry voice is done with chest voice (as opposed to head voice), and is low-pitched, slow, carefully enunciated, with falling intonation and lots of significant pauses. Anything delivered with poetry voice becomes poetry. You can even make poetry out of a grocery shopping list by the skillful application of poetry voice.

 

16) Excited mommy voice

Excited mommy voice is used by mothers when they are trying to entertain  toddlers by drawing their attention to some common object that is of no real interest to the mother. It is delivered with a loud, high-pitched, exaggerated sing-song intonation, interspersed with a great deal of excited gasping, and may go on for some time. It generally proceeds like this:

"(Gasp!) LOOK, Olivia! It's a BALLOON! (Gasp!) See the balloon, honey? See it? Oh, wow! (Gasp!) What a PRETTY balloon!"

 

 


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All contents copyright © 1998 Brenna Lorenz, Megaera Lorenz, Malachi Pulte. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction of any part of site without express permission is strictly prohibited.

Published 2/11/02. Updated 2/24/2003.
 

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