Susan Im Show 2: Slang and Cultural Expressions

Approx. time Expression Explanation
1:39 preceded went before
1:44 J-1 visa a non-immigrant visa to the United States for visitors in programs promoting cultural exchange or providing professional training.  
2:35 rings true  Something still sounds correct or appropriate.
2:44 Foreign Medical Graduate  a physician from another country practicing medicine in the United States—now called International Medical Graduate (IMG)
3:30 self-involved not paying attention to others, only to oneself
3:57 siblings brothers and sisters
4:19 strong accent speaking another language with heavy influence from one’s first language, sometimes hard to understand
4:40 Chinks go back to China! “Chink” is considered a racial slur against people from China.  A slur is a negative, insulting word to identify a person by his or her race.  The word “chink” means a narrow opening, a reference to typical almond-shaped eyes of people from East Asia.  Susan was doubly insulted because the Anglos meant to sound rude, but they used the wrong word since her family was from Korea, not China.
5:25 [palm of right hand ] Alan pointed to the palm of his right hand and said, “Traverse City.” Because the state of Michigan is shaped like a mitten, Michiganders use their open hands as a map to point to locations within the state’s lower peninsula.  I find it easier to use my left index finger to point to the palm of my right hand, but you can use your right pointer index finger to point to the back of your left hand.
5:32 cosmopolitan having worldwide views, being globally sophisticated
6:03 adoptees from Korea For many years, abandoned children in Korea were sent abroad for adoption, peaking at 8,000 per year in the 1980s.  They were largely adopted in Europe and the United States.
6:07 befriended took as a friend
6:20 to be candid to be very honest
6:39 assimilate There is a change in philosophy today in how immigrants fit into their new homeland.  The word “assimilation” means to change oneself and blend in without being noticed, to become one of the group.  A preferred concept is to allow immigrants the chance to “acculturate.”  This means they learn the ways of the new culture, but they only take on the beliefs and behaviors they truly value.  This allows them to fit into the culture in practical ways without giving up their core beliefs.  A good way for Americans to think about this would be to imagine losing their U.S. home and citizenship (due to war or economics) and then imagine if they’d want to convert to the religion and culture of their new homeland.
6:54 coming out of the woodwork seeming to appear from everywhere (somewhat surprisingly and mysteriously)
7:44 the Diag The main open space on the central campus of the University of Michigan, often the site of large public gatherings.  Originally called the Diagonal Green because of the crisscrossing of many diagonal sidewalks through the space
8:00 Vincent Chin  Vincent Chin was a Chinese American who was beaten to death by two white Americans who mistook him for Japanese.
8:12 What on earth…? An expression of strong surprise, similar to “What possibly could be happening?”
8:21 model minority In the U.S., East Asians are stereotyped as being hard working and polite, a good role model for other racial minorities to copy.  Of course, this is unfair to Asians for restricting them to studious and quiet behavior and unfair to other people of color for implying they are lazy and rude.
8:43 strip club called Fancy Pants Susan said Vincent Chin was at a strip club called Fancy Pants for a bachelor’s party. 
8:46 bachelor’s celebration Young American men are sometimes taken by their friends to strip clubs the night before they get married.  This kind of evening may be seen as a type of male bonding and may symbolize the young man’s “last chance” to be out in public watching strip-tease dancers.
8:50 verbal altercation argument, fighting with words
8:53 Caucasian white, Euro-American
9:00 racial slur As mentioned earlier, a slur is an insulting word to identify a person by his or her race.
9:06 kicked out forced to leave (the strip club)
9:15 companion friend who came along
9:32 bludgeoned to death beaten to death with a heavy weapon
9:38 off-duty police officers police officers who were not officially working but who have the power to take action if they see a crime happening
9:46 criminal prosecution court trial for breaking a law against the government
10:00 eye witness person who actually saw a crime take place
10:09 civil rights actions actions to protect an individual’s rights against unnecessary and harmful acts by the government or an organization
10:17 defendant a person who defends him/herself against charges in court
11:10 you Japs Susan said the two men thought American autoworkers were out of jobs “because of you Japs.”  The word “Jap” is a racial slur against the Japanese.  Anytime the word “you” is added to a label, this group of people feels negatively singled out, usually because it is done by a member of dominant groups (either able-bodied people, whites, males, straights, the wealthy, or Christians).
11:12 out of jobs unemployed
11:24 standing up for supporting, speaking on behalf of, offering help or protection when another person is attacked
11:27 in our corner Someone who is in your corner is on your side, is advocating for you, and wants you to win.  The expression comes from the sport of boxing, where the one person a boxer can trust is the trainer in his/her corner of the boxing ring.
11:34 transpired happened
11:54 advocating for them standing up for, speaking on behalf of them
11:56 horrific causing fear or horror
11:58 hate crime laws Susan said Vincent Chin was killed at a time when there were no laws against hate crimes.  Today, a person can be tried and punished if he or she commits a crime against someone specifically because of that person’s race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.  These charges are often difficult to prove because they go beyond the doing of crime to the reason or motivation for the crime.
12:05 horrendous tragedy terrible, frightful, awful, regrettable event
12:19 self-same identical, exactly the same
12:22 defining moment a time when one’s purpose becomes clearly identified or shown
12:29 pre-med pre-medical studies (4 years) at an American university before one can enroll in medical school

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.