Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

You want to know what words are common in English and what words are not common, right?

We get this question all of the time.

Today we’ll show you why there’s no easy answer to this question.

Get 8 questions to ask yourself to find out if a word or expression is right for you.


“Hi my name is Rie from Japan. I am a little confused by Episode 485. I asked some native speakers if they use “piece of cake” and “cakewalk” in daily life. Some of them said that it’s not common. Some of them said they use it all of the time. Others don’t even know it. Is it a generational matter?”

-Rie, Japan


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What should you think about when someone tells you a word is common?

  • Gender: This comes up more in language fillers like using “just” when you make a request
  • Urban/ rural / suburban: Our word choices can be different depending on what kind of location we live in
  • Subcultures: Gay culture, motorcycle culture, couples languages
  • Upbringing and the language of your parents and family: We spend a lot of time around our families at a young age
  • Education: Groups that are less educated or more educated will use different words and might make grammar or other language mistakes
  • Career field: This is similar to a subculture
  • Region: Southern US, Northeastern US, West Coast, Appalachian Region
  • Generation: People of different ages can use different terms and expressions
  • Amount of time spent inside and outside the US: Sometimes when we spend time outside of the US speaking with non-native speakers we might pick up on phrases that sound strange or are slightly incorrect.


What should you do?

Be critical about what you hear.

When someone says a word is common, think about why it’s common in their world.

Is it common in the world that you want to speak in too?

Consider the cultures in the list above.

Choose the English that you’re going to speak.

What subcultures are you a part of?

What will be your English style? Think about why you are learning English.

If you want a job in Silicon Valley then listen to podcasts from that world.



What are some other things you need to think about when someone tells you that a word is common?

Let us know your ideas in the comments below.

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