If you’re planning a trip to California then there’s no way you’ll want to visit the state without learning a few California slang words first.
California slang isn’t as simple as your basic “brah” or even “chill, man.” There are quite a few differences between Los Angeles slang and Bay Area slang, for example. And, if you’re visiting Northern California, you might find that people throw lots of shade if you’re using Southern California slang.
To help you out and avoid any mishaps, here are ten California slang words you should learn, memorize, and utilise if you’re ever going to travel anywhere in the state. Watching re-runs of SNL’s The Californians might help, too.
1. The 405
The very first thing you’ll need to learn when diving into California slang is that they give directions differently than any other place in the world. If you’ve ever seen The Califorinians then you’ll be familiar with the 405 or the 101. In California, at least Southern California, they put “the” before any highway or freeway. The 405 and the 101 are the most popular, but you can use it for literally anything, including saying something like “Take the 405 straight to Sunset.”
As mentioned, there are differences between NorCal and SoCal slang. And, each respective region is pretty proud of their California slang. If you head to any melting pot of California locals, such as UCLA or Berkeley, you’ll find the people from Northern California use the word hella. It’s very Norcal, and people from Southern California know a Northerner when they hear this. It basically means really. As in, that’s hella cool means it’s really cool.
It’s likely that you’ve heard this phrase a lot, but chances are that you didn’t know it pretty much originated in California. When someone’s butthurt it means they’re extremely offended but unjustifiably so. This is different than being simply upset over something. Being butthurt is when you have no reason to be upset but you are anyway.
California is home to the largest legal marijuana market in the world, which means that it comes as no surprise that the word dank is used quite frequently. Dank, at least in SoCal, means that something is so good it’s beyond amazing. If you absolutely loved the meal you just ate, for example, you could say “Man that food was so dank, I could eat it every single day.”
The California slang word bomb takes things all thy way back to the 90s when the word first became popular in a modern sense (yes, it was used in the ’60s and held a different meaning). If something’s bomb it just means it’s excellent or really cool. It’s used a lot for really simple things as well. “Did you see the new Marvel movie?” “Yeah, it was bomb.”
If something’s heavy in Southern California it’s got nothing to do with weight. Heavy in California slang means something’s emotionally heavy or serious. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean something is sad perse, but it’s used to describe something that feels, well, heavy on your heart. For example, you could respond to someone saying that their mom is sick by saying, “Wow, man, I’m so sorry. That’s heavy.”
7. June Gloom
If you spend any time in Los Angeles during the summer then you’ll undoubtedly hear the phrase June Gloom thrown around. June Gloom is a California phenomenon that causes the beachy skies to turn grey and cloudy. It’s actually caused by a sea breeze that’s a result of a temperature and pressure difference. However, in California slang, it’s a horrible reason why you can’t go to the beach. “No brah, today’s no good for surf, there’s too much June Gloom.
8. The Industry
If you hear somebody in California say they work in The Industry, then it’s 99% likely that they’re talking about the film or television industry. Because, who in Los Angeles isn’t trying to become the next Spielberg, right? The term The Industry is so ubiquitous here that it’s practically a part of life in Southern California. “What do you do?” “I work in The Industry.”
9. Come Up
If you hear someone in California use the term come up, it means that something’s an improvement. If you’re showing someone your new car and they say “Woah man, come up!” then it means that you’ve definitely upgraded from your last whip. However, you might also find that it’s used to define something that’s super clutch.
Our last California slang word is hella NorCal (see what we did there?). Yadadamean is something you’ll hear if you visit the Bay Area cities of Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, etc. Yadadamean is just a super quick, easy way of asking “Do you know what I mean?”
Looking to learn more American slang? Check out our article on New York slang.