Slang Words for Problems and Mistakes

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Words in green = not offensive

Words in orange = somewhat offensive

Words in red = very offensive

A few informal nouns for a mistake are a blooper, boo-boo, and blunder. We also have hiccup, which means a minor problem/mistake that was corrected and didn’t affect the final result/outcome.

  • “The soccer team’s defensive blunder resulted in their opponents scoring the winning goal.”

  • “Aside from a few hiccups in communication among the team members, the whole event went off without a hitch.” (without a hitch = perfectly)

For the act of making mistakes, we have phrasal verbs like slip up, screw up, foul up, and fuck up, and funny-sounding verbs like flub and bungle.

  • “My girlfriend got so mad when I slipped up and called her by my ex’s name!”

  • “He has low self-confidence because he feels like he’s always screwing up.

  • “I totally flubbed my introduction to the presentation – I said everything in the wrong order.”

When something fails, we can say it was a flop or a dud, or say that it bombed or it tanked. These expressions are usually used for sudden, obvious failures. When something progressively gets worse over time, it is going down the drain/tubes or going to the dogs/going to pot.

  • “We tried to start a club, but it was a flop. We were hoping for at least fifteen people, but only two signed up.”

  • “A lot of people lost their jobs when the economy tanked.”

  • “Some of my friends say this country is going to the dogs, but I disagree – I think things are slowly but surely getting better.”

You might make a last-ditch effort (a desperate, final effort) to fix the problem; your last option is called the last resort. But if it doesn’t work, then you’re really in a jam (in a difficult situation).

  • “After spilling coffee all over my computer, I made a last-ditch effort to recover the data: I took it to a repair shop to see if they could at least salvage the hard drive.”

  • “That medication has a bunch of serious side effects; doctors only prescribe it as a last resort.”

  • “I know I can always count on my brother’s help whenever I’m in a jam.”

You’ll have to tell your supervisors… trying to cover up the mistake is a sure-fire (definite) way to have bigger problems later on. If your boss finds out, you’ll be busted (caught doing/having done something wrong, and consequently in trouble).

  • “Getting more sleep is a sure-fire way to increase your energy and productivity during the day.”

  • “At the airport, I saw a guy get busted trying to enter the country with a fake passport.”

Hopefully when you tell your supervisors about the mistake, they will let it slide (not punish you for your mistake). However, if they think you can’t hack it (can’t handle the responsibility effectively) or if your work is not up to par / not up to snuff (does not meet the minimum standards), then you might lose your job!

  • “You’re half an hour late. I’ll let it slide this time, but don’t make a habit of it.”

  • “Sarah worked as a journalist for a month, but she couldn’t hack it – she wasn’t able to finish her stories on time for the strict deadlines.”

  • “The service at that restaurant is just not up to par. I won’t be eating there again.”

Let’s talk about success. If something works like magic / works like a charm, it works perfectly and effectively.

  • “This new detergent works like magic for getting stains out of white clothing.”

When you have a lot of successes in a row, or a lot of positive momentum in your action, you are on a roll.

  • “I’ve gotten the highest grade in the class on the past three tests. I’m really on a roll this semester!”

If you’re on a roll, just keep up the good work and you’ve got it made (success for you is certain).

  • “If you study an area like computer science, where there’s always a huge number of high-paying jobs, you’ve got it made.”


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Slang Words for Problems and Mistakes Espresso English

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