Lupe Ramos-Montigny Show: Slang and Cultural Expressions

Click on an expression in the table below to be taken to the part of the show that it is used. 



grassroots organizer

person who organizes everyday people to take action in their community (the roots of the grass implies from the ground up, not from the top down)


brothers and sisters

ethnic make-up

composition of people’s racial backgrounds

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

border city in northeast Mexico: 

Anglo kids

English-speaking children


Kindergarten through 6th grade (elementary school)


speaking just one language

had declared itself

had announced what it would be

literally crossed the railroad tracks 

cities are sometimes divided by a railroad track, with poor people on one side and rich people on the other (this has become an idiom in English, so Lupe wanted us to know that there was really an actual railroad track dividing the Latinos and the Anglos in her hometown)

kept to ourselves

didn’t go with other groups, stayed with Mexican Americans


mixing, being together (with people from different cultures and backgrounds)

Go to the office!

Leave the classroom (to be punished in the school office).

blares out

comes out loudly, forcefully

sure enough

certainly, as predicted, that’s what happened


person who is chosen to represent the group by speaking for them

upper Midwest

U.S. states which include North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan

picking produce 

harvesting fruit and vegetables 


possessions, things you own

Caseville, MI (in the Thumb)

city on the tip of Michigan’s peninsula that looks like the thumb of a mitten:,_Michigan 


a root vegetable

Old Mission Peninsula

region of northwest Michigan: 

Cesar Chavez, legacy of 

(lasting history of) the Mexican American who organized migrant farm workers and pressed farmers and legislators for better working conditions 

discriminated against

received unfair treatment

peer out

look out (onto uncertain scene)

We were nine.

There were nine of us.

filling station

gas station (where people fill their tanks)

body work

fixing the bodies of cars

cohesive family 

family that is very close, that sticks together

Mex-Tex food 

cooking style from the Texas-Mexico border region

big deal

very important, significant

the drive-in

type of restaurant where you are served in your car

lugs of cherries 

a lug is a container holding freshly picked produce 


leading (the head of a spear goes through the air first)

migrant worker

worker who travels from one work site to another


insisting, having a strong opinion

That’s how come… 

That’s why…

fabric of our country

basic nature, foundation of our country


unkind, cruel, uncaring, mean

La Raza / the Micah Center

largest Hispanic rights group in the U.S. ( Christian group for social justice (


mocked, made fun of, laughed at

poll tax 

a tax created by some states to discourage poor people from voting

people of color 

non-white citizens

the Creator

Lupe refers to God (who in her religion created the earth and all its people)

Committee to Honor César E. Chávez

parent-teacher conferences

scheduled meetings where parents go to the school to meet teachers and talk about the progress of their children


cautious, shy, reluctant to join in

tackle that

deal with that, handle it

State Board of Education

group that makes educational policy for the state of Michigan (,4615,7-140-5373---,00.html) 

circle of friends

group of people who surround you with friendship

Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.