Lingo, otherwise known as jargon or slang, is often a product of a geographic location. Wherever you are, there are locals that use certain terms, phrases, and vocabulary that visitors might not be immediately familiar with. Lingo can be learned, but it takes time. In Santa Monica, there is an interesting blend of language from the hills, the valley, and the beach. Santa Monica locals tend to have a laid-back style of speech, derived from Dogtown culture.
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If you live on the West Coast, then chances are you’ve probably used this word or heard it said by others. For Southern Californians, the word is synonymous with “crazy.” Typically, it is used in a negative context but it can be positive as well. In either case, it is something extreme and warrants a big reaction. For example: “Traffic today? It was gnarly, dude.”
While not confined to Southern California, the word “heavy” has a long history of describing something serious, profound, or cool. It has a range of connotations, depending on the context it’s being used in. Santa Monica locals commonly use the word to describe a deep sadness. For example: “That documentary about animal abuse was heavy.”
You might think “cruise” has to do with a big boat and a luxury vacation. However, in this case, it refers to a laid-back state of motion. You might “cruise by” the grocery store or “cruise down” the street. In both cases, the verb is relaxed, unhurried, and smooth. Often, it invokes traveling by car but it could also refer to someone biking, skating, scootering, or walking.
SoCal and NorCal
If you live in California, then you’ve probably heard these two terms your whole life. They are simply shortened versions of Southern California and Northern California. The differentiation is important because the state of California is so big. SoCal and NorCal are the general terms to separate California regions based on their cities and culture.
Corn or Flour?
This is something that you might hear at a restaurant or when ordering take-out. With Mexico so close to the border, you’ll find that tacos, burritos, huevos rancheros, and other dishes are prominent in many local eateries. “Corn or flour” is simply referring to the kind of tortillas that come with the dish you’re ordering.
The 5 (the 10, the 405, etc.)
California is big, which means that commuting via car is very necessary. Since transportation is so integral to daily life, Santa Monica locals refer to the freeways as the interstate number with “the” before. So, instead of saying Interstate 5, you’ll hear “the 5” or “the 5 freeway.” If you refer to the freeways any other way, locals will immediately know you’re not from the area.
In Southern California, “the industry” refers to the professional work of film & television, otherwise known as “Hollywood.” Since Los Angeles is so close to Santa Monica, this is a commonly spoken phrase. Many people know people who are in “the industry” and understand the struggles that come along with it.