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North vs. South California Expressions (And Why to Watch What You Say)

North vs. South California Expressions (And Why to Watch What You Say)

I feel oddly qualified to write about California expressions, not only because I hail from California, but because I’ve lived in both its Northern and Southern regions. More specifically, I grew up in the latter and went to college in the former. To be honest, I didn’t  notice too much of a difference between the two. In fact, I’d say there’s more that ties NorCal and SoCal together than drives them apart. But there are some stark differences when it comes to the way people speak. Indeed, with some NorCal- and SoCal-specific phrases, you definitely should not use them outside of their region of origin (unless you want to get yelled at)! Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at some California expressions. We’ll start with the good old North…

NorCal

1. “Hella”

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    This California expression is pretty infamous. I never heard it being used in Southern California, and when I started living in the North it came as a bit of a shock to me when I heard every other person dropping phrases like “yeah man, that was a hella cool class.” Even after four years in NorCal, I never reached the point where I felt comfortable using it myself. I just stuck to its synonyms, like “incredibly,” or “very.” These days “hella” and its little brother, “hecka,” are being used more and more often in SoCal, so I’d say soon enough they will become ubiquitous to all of California. Until that happens though, you’ll continue to receive stares of disapproval if you use this expression in Southern California. Even if you use this in NorCal, where it’s meant to be used, be prepared for an outburst of righteous indignation if a SoCal native hears you say it.

    2. “The City”

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      This means San Francisco, or SF. For people in the North, this is the only city that deserves being called The City. They aren’t talking about San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, or anyplace like that. (Sorry, people from those cities.) If you are from Los Angeles and say you’re from “the city” when you’re up in NorCal, you’ll just be causing a whole lot of confusion. And don’t try to clarify what you meant, either, as that only makes it worse. (You’ll probably just receive a lecture about why LA is terrible compared to the Bay Area). Best not to reveal you’re from Los Angeles in the first place.

      3. “SoCal”

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        Growing up in Southern California, I rarely if ever heard people refer to the region we live in as “SoCal.” Instead we’d just say “California,” and clarify with “in the south” or “near LA” when asked. When I moved up North, I heard the term “SoCal” used far more often, which is a little bit ironic. Here’s an example: “Oh, look, these guys are hella weird. They’re probably from SoCal.” If you use “SoCal” while actually in SoCal, you’ll probably freak people out, since we all know where we are. The only reason to use such an abbreviation anyways is when speaking in reference to NorCal. But we rarely do that.

        4. “I’m stoked!”

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          While this is surely used in Southern California as well, especially near the beaches, I heard it all the time in NorCal. Is there a party going on? Well, then you’re stoked for it. About to go on a bike ride? Get stoked. Going to the beach? Stoked. It means “super extremely excited about doing something.” Seeing how long that phrase is, it’s no wonder it gets condensed down to “stoked” so often. Doing research, I found that many people said that “stoked” is a SoCal expression. Well, maybe it used to be, but it’s definitely become more of a “thing” up North now as far as I can tell.

          5. “420”

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            This, in the North,always refers to April 20th, the date on which all of the pot smokers up there gather and celebrate their collective addiction to marijuana. There are pot smokers in SoCal of course, especially where I live, but I never heard “420” used this way until I moved up North. Today it has become more ubiquitous across America, but I’d still say it’s very much a part of Northern California’s culture. If you say you’re celebrating 420 in SoCal, chances are you’ll receive several blank stares, and perhaps even be arrested, while up in Northern California you’ll probably get a few cheers and a couple high-fives.

            6. “Janky”

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              “Janky” means “performing below normal standards.” So if your iPhone is being slow and unresponsive, you’d say “Dang, my phone is being real janky today.” It’s not something I heard being used everyday in NorCal, though it definitely was used, especially compared to SoCal where I never heard it. I’d stick to using this phrase in Northern California, because elsewhere they might think you’re talking about an exotic new narcotic.

              SoCal

              1. “Like”

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                Like, did you know that us Southern Californians like to, like, use the word “like” in our sentences? Even when we, like, don’t need to? This isn’t a problem when writing, usually, but if you ever hear “like” interspersed between every other word, you’re likely talking to a person from SoCal. Don’t be fooled by stereotypes either: it isn’t just so-called valley girls who do this. I do it, and so does pretty much everyone I know who grew up in this region. Much like the North’s “hella,” our use of “like” is mostly subconscious and can’t really be controlled, so don’t get too mad at us!

                2. “NoCal”

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                  As you probably noticed, there’s an “r” missing from this. Or is there? When referring to Northern California in abbreviated form (which, I’ll remind you, we Southern Californians rarely do), we use “NoCal” instead of NorCal because it’s more derogatory. (No-Cal, get it?) And it’s about twice as fun to say. Just don’t say it up North because people will take it as a slight against their honor and start raving about all of the things wrong with Southern California. They might also pull out a cowbell or two and start ringing it in your face.

                  3. “Dude”

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                    While this might seem like something everyone in California says, you’re far more likely to hear it as a term of endearment down South. Up North, I found that people would say “man” instead. Note that this phrase is unisex, meaning you don’t have to call a girl a “dudette,” whatever that is. They can be dudes, too! You can safely say “dude” in NorCal without attracting anyone’s fury, just don’t expect it to be said back to you.

                    4. “North-North California”

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                      We Southern Californians are keenly aware that what is typically known as NorCal (San Fransisco, Sacramento, and the like), is really just upper-central California geographically. So when we come across someone who lives in that strange land above Tahoe and below Oregon, we ask them, “So you live in North-North California? Basically Oregon right?” They usually bristle at this, either because they want to be affiliated with the hip and happening NorCal or don’t want to be associated with Oregon in any way. Fun fact: this area of California once petitioned to be its own state, Jefferson, but it never happened. Best to not bring up any of this to a “true” Northern Californian, lest you incur their wrath.

                      5. “There’s a Sigalert on the 405”

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                        The term “Sigalert” is practically inseparable from Southern California, mostly as a result of its huge Freeway infrastructure. A Sigalert is a warning from the Highway Patrol that a particular region of the Freeway is blocked off due to a crash, meaning that it’s unusable, leading to hours of rage-inducing traffic. It happens on a daily basis, and thus Southern Californians are always checking their TVs and radios for Sigalerts before they hit the road. Usually there’s a detour available, a result of there being so many gosh-darned Freeways everywhere. I should also point out one more distinction here, in that people in NorCal wouldn’t say “the 405.” Instead, they’ll say something like “take highway 17 to get to San Jose,” whereas a Southern California native would say “take the 17.” Also, I never heard “Sigalert” used up in NorCal, so save yourself some trouble and just call them “accidents” when you’re up there.

                        6. “The entertainment industry”

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                        hollywood

                          In Southern California, this always means that your job deals with Hollywood in some fashion, whether you work on a set, are an engineer of some sort, are a producer, an actor, and so on and so forth. Here’s a reminder though: say something like “I work in the entertainment industry” up in NorCal and people probably won’t even know what you’re referring to. You’ll need to clarify that you work in the show business, specifically the one related to Hollywood, or else their mind will wander, thinking about the many things a job based in “entertainment” could entail.

                          And lastly, a phrase to avoid like the plague…

                          “Cali”

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                            Northern and Southern Californians can come together on this one. Nobody, literally nobody living in California refers to their state as “Cali.” Use that word here and you might as well be holding up a giant sign that says “I’m from Pennsylvania!”

                            Featured photo credit: golden-gate-bridge-san-francisco / CC0 Public Domain via pixabay.com

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                            Last Updated on May 21, 2019

                            How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

                            How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

                            For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

                            If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

                            Example 1

                            You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

                            You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

                            In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

                            Example 2

                            You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

                            People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

                            You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

                            Example 3

                            You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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                            The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

                            Example 4

                            You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

                            Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

                            If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

                            Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

                            • Understand your own communication style
                            • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
                            • Communicate with precision and care
                            • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

                            1. Understand Your Communication Style

                            To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

                            In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

                            Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

                            2. Learn Others Communication Styles

                            Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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                            If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

                            “How do you prefer to receive information?”

                            This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

                            To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

                            3. Exercise Precision and Care

                            A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

                            On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

                            Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

                            I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

                            I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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                            In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

                            The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

                            Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

                            4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

                            Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

                            In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

                            “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

                            Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

                            Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

                            It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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                            It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

                            It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

                            Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

                            Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

                            The Bottom Line

                            When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

                            I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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                            Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

                            Reference

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