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I learned British English, but I work exclusively with Americans. I'll often say "Fat lot of good X did for us", and I get confused looks from others. For example, the other day, I said "I think we should have had them take the web development course; fat lot of good the algorithms course did for them" and people have no idea what I mean. A coworker told me that what I'm saying sounds like what someone British would say, and I'm not sure how to Americanize this statement.

First: Am I using the term "Fat lot of good" incorrectly? Second: How should I say this in American English?

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    It's strictly "a fat lot of good..." but dropping the a is perfectly acceptable - to a Brit. idk what the US equivalent would be, sorry. Dec 30, 2022 at 16:14
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    I'm an American, and I certainly understand "Fat lot of good X did for us". But I watched British TV and read British literature...
    – RonJohn
    Aug 25, 2023 at 14:02

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Just leave out the fat, in speech, and use a sarcastic tone.

"I think we should have had them take the web development course; a lot of good the algorithms course did for them."

The fact is that this is an idiomatic expression.

And many Americans would in fact understand "a fat lot of good". Who cares what a coworker says? The expression is not essentially British at all.

It's in Merriam Webster like this:

a (fat) lot of good idiom informal : no use or help at all "I've brought an umbrella." "A (fat) lot of good that will do now that it's stopped raining!"

Merriam Webster

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Chicagoan here. While this is something any American who's read a British book should have no difficulty with, if I were writing dialogue for an American character I'd probably have them say a few different things depending on the level of politeness they're going for.

"I think we should have had them take the web development course— the algorithms course did_______ for them"

  • nothing - neutral.

  • absolutely nothing - neutral in content, but you're clearly annoyed by how useless the course was.

  • jack shit - mildly rude, but funny. casual.

  • jack - leaving out the curseword is understood to mean the same thing, but more politely. still casual.

  • fuck all - rude, but funny. definitely use only with friends.

Notice I just dropped the "a lot of good the..." part.

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A whole lot of good would also work. I'm guessing the confusion comes from the fact that "fat" generally refers to being overweight.

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