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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 November 11, 2019

                            Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

                            Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

                            A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

                            You know how this looks:

                            • Parents constantly comparing children.
                            • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
                            • Domestic violence.
                            • Adultery…
                            • And many others.

                            For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

                            Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

                            Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

                            This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

                            In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

                            If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

                            How to fix a dysfunctional family

                            In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

                            And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

                            Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

                            It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

                            Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

                            Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

                            There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

                            Dysfunctional… Or just average?

                            Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

                            The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

                            You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

                            A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

                            Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

                            Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

                            • Unrealistic expectations
                            • Lack of interest and time spent together
                            • Sexism
                            • Utilitarianism
                            • Lack of empathy
                            • Unequal or unfair treatment
                            • Disrespect towards boundaries
                            • Control Issues
                            • Jealousy
                            • Verbal and physical abuse
                            • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

                            You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

                            If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

                            Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

                            How to turn it around

                            When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

                            But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

                            One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

                            We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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                            As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

                            What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

                            Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

                            Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

                            Correction is possible

                            In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

                            Verbalize it.

                            All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

                            Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

                            This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

                            But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

                            So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

                            Putting it to work in real life

                            In real life it would be something like this:

                            “OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

                            Or:

                            “Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

                            Or:

                            “Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

                            As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

                            This is what you have to remember:

                            1-Stop.

                            2-Why it’s wrong?

                            3-What you need.

                            And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

                            It’s a family thing

                            A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

                            Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

                            In other words, you will need cooperation…

                            So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

                            Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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                            We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

                            You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

                            It’s not a free-for-all battle

                            In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

                            No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

                            Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

                            And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

                            The method

                            1. Drop the ego

                            Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

                            You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

                            Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

                            What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

                            It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

                            After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

                            Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

                            Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

                            Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

                            And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

                            You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

                            2. Not blame, but responsibility

                            When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

                            But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

                            When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

                            What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

                            Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

                            As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

                            You will do something like this:

                            “Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

                            I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

                            You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

                            I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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                            It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

                            What happened here?

                            We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

                            We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

                            We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

                            And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

                            You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

                            This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

                            3. Doing the work

                            What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

                            This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

                            Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

                            If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

                            It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

                            “When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

                            I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

                            But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

                            You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

                            Love is all you need

                            You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

                            That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

                            And what happens if it simply is not there?

                            What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

                            What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

                            There is only one thing you can do:

                            To break away.

                            Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

                            There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

                            “We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

                            If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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                            Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

                            You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

                            Putting distance

                            So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

                            What do I mean?

                            Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

                            Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

                            Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

                            Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

                            They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

                            Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

                            I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

                            I choose my peace of mind.

                            And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

                            Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

                            Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

                            How to prevent it

                            There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

                            • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
                            • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

                            Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

                            You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

                            Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

                            Priorities and clear thought

                            You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

                            You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

                            You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

                            Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

                            If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

                            And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

                            Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

                            But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

                            Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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