Southern California April 20, 2021
If You Know What These 9 Words Mean, You’ve Lived In Southern California For Far Too Long
Just like every place has its own lingo, Southern California is no different. Separate from the northern part of the state, the valley has some vernacular heavily influenced by surf culture and the entertainment industry. Not to mention, there are also tons of SoCal stereotypes we associate with television. But don’t worry – even if you’re from out of town, we’ve compiled a list of all of the words you need to sound just like a local. As you read on, keep in mind, this piece is all for good fun and is meant to be tongue-in-cheek!
1. The Industry
Everyone in Southern California works in the “The Industry,” aka the film, television, and entertainment industry. When you ask someone what they do, they’ll say The Industry without explaining any further. It’s how you get major street cred in SoCal.
“Surfs up dude, that wave was gnarly.” You might have heard his phrase used on television, and it comes from surf culture in the Golden State. The word gnarly is pronounced with an emphasis on the “r,” and is used to describe particularly large and powerful waves in the ocean.
Time for a selfie, like totally! When you think of Southern California, your mind might go straight to reality television with the valley girls who have the drawn-out vocal fry. “Totally” with a drawn-out “y” sound at the end is standard speak in the valley. And we totally get why.
This SoCal slang is used as a way to emphasize things or get a point across. It means “super or really.” Used in a sentence, it’s common to hear phrases like “that’s hella cool” or
"I am hella tired today.” It’s classic California speak that you’ll certainly pick up if you live in the state for a while.
5. Dirty Dog
A favorite street food in Los Angeles, the dirty dog is a local delicacy that you get from a food cart on the side of the street. Yum! We know what you’re thinking… what’s in the dog? Is it safe to eat? We don’t know, but it’s certainly delicious and it’ll be the best hot dog you can find while just walking around at night.
Sup brah. Ah… the classic bro lingo filtrates the SoCal culture within the younger generation. Typically, this word is used to describe a male friend in social situations. For example, a group might get together with their bros to chill. We hope they bring the dirty dogs!
Last but not least, you’ll never hear locals and longtime residents of California call it “Cali.” If you’re in the south, it’s SoCal and NorCal in the north. Saying Cali for sure makes you sound like a tourist who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Use this cheat sheet for your next trip to SoCal to sound just like a local. What are some phrases or words that you think are unique to the state? Let us know in the comments! For another fun culture piece, check out our article on
10 Undeniable Ways You Know You’re From Southern California. Address: Southern California, CA, USA