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ELL Guide

A guide for ELL (English Language Learners) at the University of Maine at Augusta

Why Culture References Are Important

Language cannot be separated from culture.  Culture influences language just as language influences culture.  The process is cyclical and never-ending.  As such, popular culture (also known simply as pop culture) has a significant impact on language.  People will often make references to pop culture during their daily conversations.  As such, we have included some common pop culture references here to help you not only better understand English, but also better express yourself.  

This category includes not only specific references to popular culture, but also words and phrases that were popularized by specific songs, books, movies, etc. in popular culture or are most associated with them.  

There is not always a clear distinction between an idiom or a cultural reference–and sometimes a phrase can be both.  It is not as important how phrases are categorized as it is to understand their context and how they are used. 

How To Use This Pop Culture Reference List

You can use our list of pop culture references any way you like. 

One potential way is try incorporating one of them into your day.  It will likely spark conversation--and possible laughter.  It can be fun.  Give it a try.  

A Note About These Pop Culture References

In detailing these pop culture references, we discuss their "meaning and pop culture origin."  It should be noted that what we discuss may not actually be their actual point of origin, which could be impossible to determine in certain instances, but rather a pop culture text or event that popularized the term.  

Accessibility Statement
The University provides reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities upon request. Any person with a disability who needs accommodations for a workshop should contact UMA Libraries at to submit a request. Due to the lead-time needed to arrange certain accommodations, individuals should submit their request no later 1 week before the event.