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What is the replacement for "rubbish" in American English? I would think "crappy" but it seems a bit stronger than needed.

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

Garbage is suitable, I think.

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+1 suitable both when you're speaking of household waste and the more figurative, derisive sense of useless things/ideas. – ghoppe Jan 31 '11 at 19:10
+1 that's what I'd use. Although you can say 'that tshirt is rubbish', 'you look rubbish this morning'. Can you use 'garbage' in this way? – gpr Jan 31 '11 at 21:33
@gpr, in American English you could say "that t-shirt is garbage" or "you look like garbage this morning"--although there are certainly more colorful idioms that are likelier to come to mind. – Hellion Jan 31 '11 at 21:37
@Hellion. Noted for future use ;) – gpr Jan 31 '11 at 21:52
@Hellion: while "that t-shirt is garbage" definitely works, "you look like garbage this morning" would sound very strange to me, just to note. :) – JoeCool Feb 9 '11 at 21:54

First of all, the word rubbish is pretty well understood by American English speakers, and although it does have a British flavor it is used occasionally by Americans. So if you are worried that your use of rubbish will not be understood, that is less of a concern than with some other Britishisms.

Second, I’m not sure how rubbish is used as an adjective. All the uses I know of are nouns. Even in uses like “what rubbish quality” or “getting the occasional play on rubbish indie radio shows”, the use is as an attributive noun.

Finally, as others have noted garbage can be substituted for nearly any use rubbish, whether literal or figurative.

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'although it does have a British flavor it is used occasionally by Americans' My wife and I bought a trash can when we lived in America that was stencilled 'RUBBISH' and we found it hilarious. Then we moved to the UK, where it just seems prosaic. Even we ask ourselves, 'And...?' – Dodecaphone Apr 25 at 22:20
I assure you, 'rubbish' does get used as an adjective in everyday speech here! – Dodecaphone Apr 25 at 22:21
@Dodecaphone are you sure it's being used as an adjective and not as an attributive noun? Do you have an example? – nohat Apr 29 at 0:35
I don't think an attributive noun is what a native Brit would understand himself to be saying. One counterexample offhand: after hearing a poor performance, a common expression would be, "Well, that was a bit rubbish." I'll keep my ears open over the next few days for examples "in the wild," and try to conduct an interview afterward. ;-) – Dodecaphone Apr 29 at 6:04

The questioner should give an example of the kind of usage he/she is after. For example, if you want an equivalent exclamation for the British speaker's "Rubbish!" as an American I'd say "Bullshit!" if the situation is informal and "Nonsense!" if it's more formal, with lots of alternatives in between. But none of these would be parallel to the 'crappy' option that the questioner is intuiting.

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'Nonsense' is much closer, because 'rubbish' is accepted as polite in nearly any context. – Dodecaphone Apr 25 at 22:23

How about trashy? I'm not sure if it's American English, though...

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Trashy tends to mean common, in the vulgar sense of the word; also has association with loose morals. – Orbling Jan 31 '11 at 19:08
You can use trash, without the 'y', to fill in for either rubbish or garbage. – oosterwal Jan 31 '11 at 22:30

Trashy denotes something different. Trashy is usually associated with person. Doing so regards that person as a slut most likely.

Garbage < Crappy < Shitty would be the alternates in order of strength!

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That t-shirt is rubbish < that t-shirt is garbage < that t-shirt is/looks crappy < that t-shirt is/looks shitty. I don't think we have the answer yet. We should be looking for a word that actually conveys the same meaning as rubbish, including nuance. – ukayer Feb 6 '11 at 18:07
garbage < crap < shit. But don't confuse "that t-shirt is shit" with "that t-shirt is the shit"! – tenfour Jun 29 '11 at 11:39

What about junk? This isn't commonly used but doesn't have quite the same connotations as trash/*trashy*.

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The most common American is quite strong. It is "bullsh--."

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I've always found that "stinks" seems to convey a similar connotation as "rubbish". The grammar isn't the same obviously, but the nuances seem closer particularly when the object being described is an action.
-"His performance is rubbish." "His performance stinks."
-"This outfit is rubbish" "This outfit stinks."
-"My game today is rubbish." "My game today stinks."

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