Ask AC
Questions about Friends

Hi,
I am wondering if you could help me out with some slang expressions that I run into when I watch the sitcom show "Friends". I have tried every dictionary I have without any success. Anyway, here they are:

1. grab a spoon (it is said when a guy tries to convince another guy to forget his ex-wife and move on).
2. doy
3. plugs (it is said when a girl grabs her ex's head, as in "you get plugs!"
4. blobbies
5. flupie
6. pla
7. Marshmallow Peep
8. mitzi
9. tootie
10. crap-weasel
11. dinkle
12. schwang

I know it is a bit of too much for me to ask so many questions, but I would appreciate your help very much. Thanks in advance and Happy Christmas!

Guyx


Dear Guyx,

Thanks for writing. A lot of my students also have problems with words and expressions in situation comedies, especially Friends. There are a few reasons for that. Some words might, as you guessed, be slang that you can't find in the dictionary. Others are references to things found in American culture. A third category is slang or creative language used just once, or by one group of people. Finally, words are sometimes misheard or misspelled, either by the listener or the TV captioner.

SLANG DICTIONARIES
Let's start with some words from the first category: plugs and crap-weasel. Plug and weasel exist in standard dictionaries, but not with the meanings you want. Plugs are pieces of skin and hair that have been surgically moved from another part of the head or body onto the top of the head to make a man look less bald. A weasel is a deceitful person. (You probably found weasel in the standard dictionary as a long thin animal similar to a rat. For some reason, we imagine this animal is dishonest.) Crap a more polite way to say shit (excrement in a standard dictionary) and is used here for emphasis. Therefore, a crap-weasel is a terrible person who lies.

For these words, I recommend a good slang dictionary. For non-native speakers, the best one I've seen is NTC's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions, edited by Richard A. Spears. The definitions are very easy to understand (unlike those in slang dictionaries for Americans), there are examples of how to use each word, and it's not expensive (always a good thing). Because we get a lot of questions about reference books, we've added a page of book recommendations with order links to Amazon.com. To find out about this book and other useful books about slang, click here.

CULTURE
Shows like Friends and The Simpsons often refer to other American TV shows, U.S. history and popular culture. The cultural reference in your list is Marshmallow Peeps. This is a kind of soft candy you can buy around Easter time in the US. They usually look like yellow chicks, though you can also get ones shaped like rabbits. You can often find out what these cultural references are by looking for them on an English language search engine, such as Yahoo.com or Google.com (which also has an image search that will return dozens of pictures of Marshmallow Peeps).

CONTEXT
When I saw your list, I thought you might have misheard or misspelled words like flupie and blobbies, because I couldn't remember hearing them before. However, I was able to find most of those words in Friends episodes on the Internet. In these cases, you will not find the words or expressions in a slang dictionary because they are unique to that show or conversation. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) you'll need to trust your own judgment to figure out the meaning of these expressions from the context.

For example, grab a spoon appears in an episode where Joey tells Ross that women are like flavors of ice cream and recommends that Ross grab a spoon. This is not a standard slang expression. It's just a metaphor comparing women to ice cream. Joey means that Ross should date or have sex with some other women. Ross replies, "Do you know how long it's been since I grabbed a spoon? Do the words, 'Billy, don't be a hero' mean anything to you?"

Billy, don't be a hero was a popular song from the early 1970s, so Ross means that he has not dated much since that time - clearly an exaggeration, since he was probably a small child when the song was popular. This is another case where you could try searching for the phrase (in quotation marks) on a search engine. If it's a popular phrase, it should come up in a lot of sites.

Most of the other expressions you asked about can also be figured out from context:

blobbies Rachel explains her new job in a restaurant to her friends: "Sometimes Artelle lets me put the little chocolate blobbies on the cookies." A blob (standard English, not slang) is something shapeless, but the fact that these are chocolate and put on cookies means they must be like chocolate chips, but irregularly shaped.

flupie Rachel has just broken up with her fiancé and feels that she has no direction in her life. "But see, it was a plan," she says. "You know, it was clear. It was figured out, and now everything's just kinda like..."

"Flupie?" asks Phoebe. Flupie, an adjective invented by Phoebe, is obviously the opposite of clear, figured out and planned.

dinkle (dingle), schwang You can actually find these in some slang dictionaries - especially dingle (I think it sounds like dinkle because Joey is trying to speak with a German accent). However, just the context is enough to figure them out. Joey is playing Sigmund Freud in a musical. He sings to a female patient:

All you want is a dingle,
What you envy's a schwang,
A thing through which you can tinkle,
Or play with, or simply let hang...

Freud's famous theory was penis envy - the idea that most women's problems were because they wanted a penis. So dingle and schwang mean penis. Tinkle is a cute children's word for pee (urinate in the standard dictionary).

doy In a discussion about a missing ring, Joey asks Rachel, "When did you have it on last?" Phoebe answers, "Doy! Probably right before she lost it!" Although Chandler then makes a joke about her strange word, it's most likely just an exclamation of annoyance (as in "What a stupid question! The answer is obvious.")

I wasn't able to find any examples of pla, so it might not be the right spelling, but it doesn't sound like a usual slang word. It might be another example of creative writing on the part of the Friends staff. As for Mitzi and Tootie, those are the names of pets. Tootie was Phoebe's cat and Mitzi was the pet hamster of one of Ross's girlfriends.

Context is always helpful. Some websites such as http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~shadelet/ have a lot of Friends transcripts that you can review, if you've forgotten the original conversation. I hope that answers your questions!

Your pal,

A.C.

P.S. I think most of the words from your other email are also contextual. However, big fat means really big. It can be positive (a big fat steak) or negative (a big fat liar), and most recently, in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. To buy a vowel is an expression from the American TV game show Wheel of Fortune, on which players try to guess a phrase letter by letter. Although they have to guess consonants, they can buy vowels with their prize money to get more clues. -AC

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