Whazzup? Just hanging out. You down with that? These are examples of slang, or non-standard English, which are frequently used between friends in casual conversation. Slang can be use of words you might not find in the dictionary, words used with a different meaning than you find in the dictionary, or shortened words and phrases to simplify language. Slang is fun, full of meaning, and its use will make you sound more American. One caution, slang is often not appropriate for the workplace or when meeting someone new. When in doubt, stick with conventional language.
I've been working like a dog. Who is calling the shots on that project? We need someone who knows the ropes on this one. These are examples of idioms, or common expressions whose meaning is not literal. Idioms reference meaning that is out of context, and can be confusing to non-native speakers. Unlike slang, idioms are usually acceptable for most speaking contexts, including work and formal situations. When someone uses an idiom you have not heard or do not know the meaning of, the best strategy is to ask for clarification. Native speakers frequently use idioms without realizing that their meaning is not universally understood. You may need to point out the phrase you didn't understand, as the speaker is probably not even aware that they used an idiom.
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