California can be a pretty strange place for people visiting from other places, especially those from other countries. Last week, we had some folks all the way from Yuma. That’s so awesome!
During your cruise, we may encounter native board-carrying amphibians repeatedly washing ashore (they never learn). Occasionally, one will approach you. There is no need to be afraid. You don’t even have to talk. Just shake your head like the rest of us. And yes.. sand in their hair is normal. Just go with it.
If you’re curious about their thoughts, feel free to engage. I put a glossary here to help you out. Like I always say, “When in rome, learn to talk romanian dude!”
So like, if you say “Hi. How’s it going?” and that he say’s “It’s pretty gnarly out bro! It’s a double overhead out there!”, you may be curious to know what the dude just said! Fear not my friend. Spicoli has your back.
Surf culture has had a huge influence on the way all coastal Californians speak. You may hear surfers, skaters, and snowboarders talking about "shredding the gnar", but even those who don’t partake in extreme sports tend to use the word "gnarly" to describe things that are either extremely good or extremely bad.
You'll also hear words like "epic" and of course, "dude”.
Waves that are "double overhead" are not meant for the faint of heart.
Whatever you do bro, don't say "Cali". You don’t want locals thinking you’re from the valley. so be cool. Is that a camera around your neck dude?
You will rarely hear a native Californian refer to the state as “Cali”. If you want to blend in, best to just refer to our country as California.
Though a dictionary might define the word "stoke" as "to stir or add fuel to something that is burning", this expression has absolutely nothing to do with building a fire, at least in a literal sense.
Californians are stoked when they're totally exhilarated about something. Whether it's a beach cruise on a fat woody, or a huge swell coming just in time for the weekend.
The term "I’m stoked" became popular with the classic hit surfing movie, "The Endless Summer," a 1966 documentary by Bruce Brown.
Nowadays, it’s a commonly used word in many regions.
Perhaps one of the more regionally distinctive words on this list is "hella".
By that we mean that it is an immediate indication that the speaker is from northern California or the bay area. (might as well be from the valley dude) Southern Californians don’t really like the word, referring to it the Yankee language of northern aggression.
Derived from "hell of a" or "hell of a lot," the word is generally used in place of "really," "a lot," or "very."
One of my personal favorite uses of the expression is Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter singing, ‘You and tequila make me crazy’.
“Mulholland Drive… hella bent on gettin high”. Epic dude.
Here’s an example:
“I’m hella stoked about shredding’ the gnar on your totally radical fat woody dude!'“
Translation: “I’m very excited to go cruising on your fat woody sir!”
Bail – to leave a place. (Bail also means the temporary release of someone awaiting trial for a crime.) For example, if you’re at a friend’s house and you want to go home, you can say, “Hey man, I’m tired. I’m gonna bail.”
Ballin’ – something that’s really cool or fancy. You can also say balla‘, which can refer to a person. This comes from a basketball player with lots of money. For example, I put diamonds on my food because it’s the most balla‘ thing you can possible do to your food.
Bomb(ie) – you can say something is bomb when you really like it. When a girl is very attractive, you can call her a bombie. (Bomb also means an explosive.) For example, “Grace Potter is so bomb,” or “Grace is such a bombie.”
Boss – When something is really cool or flashy. A boss is a man in charge, leading his own life. If you’re driving an expensive car, you can say you feel like a boss. Or if someone at a party is yelling and screaming and some dude easily quiets her down, you could say about the guy, “Damn, what a boss!” Check out this funny music video about boss.
Bum – to borrow/have. (Bum is also another word for a homeless person.) For example, if you order food that costs $8.25 you can ask your friend to bum a quarter.
Bust – when something is dangerous, not a good idea, or a waste of time. For example, having sex without condom is a bust.
Butthurt – when someone gets upset over a small thing. You use this to emphasize how easily someone got upset about something so small. For example, Joe got butthurt when Cami didn’t answer her phone.
Call (someone) out – to say someone is wrong. For example, I decided to wait until after the speech before calling him out on his mistake.
Claimin‘ it – what you say when someone is bragging. (Claim also means to state something is true, usually without evidence.) For example, if someone’s talking about how cool they are because they can do a backflip on a snowboard, you can say while rolling your eyes, “Claimin’ it,” or “he claims so hard.”
Clutch – when someone unexpectedly has something that helps a situation. (Clutch also means to grab tightly.) For example, if you buy some wine but you don’t have a wine opener at your house, but your friend has one in his backpack, that’s clutch.
Crossfaded – when you’re drunk and stoned (intoxicated from marijuana) at the same time. For example, if you’re drinking beer and someone asks you if you want to smoke weed you could say, “No thanks man. I don’t function well when I’m crossfaded.”
Cruise – another way to say “come” or “leave.” (Cruise also means to sail about for pleasure, often with no desitination.) For example, “Hey man, you wanna cruise over to my place after work?” Or, “Hey man, it’s getting late. I’m gonna cruise.”
Dank – another way to say something is good. (Dank also means disagreeably damp and stale.) This originated from marijuana, but is commonly used for other things as well. For example, “This food is dank, I could eat it every day.”
Drag – to inhale cigarette smoke. (Drag also means to pull something or someone with force.) For example, if someone is smoking a cigarette, you can say, “Hey man, can I get a drag?”
Dub – $20. For example, if someone asks you if you have change for a $10 bill, you could say, “Nah man, I’ve only got a dub.”
Fresh – something that is new, in really good condition, or simply stylish. For example, if you see your friend with a cool pair of shoes you could say, “Damn, those shoes are fresh!”
Gnarly – when something is intense or scary. This started as a surfer slang term that but it’s commonly used by many young people living in California. For example, if you see someone get hit by a car you could say, “Oh my God, that was gnarly!”
Heads - another way to say people. This is usually used to refer to guys. For example, if your inviting your friend to a party you could say, “How many heads are you coming with?”
Heavy – when something is very sad or depressing. (Heavy also means something that weighs a lot.) For example, if someone tells you their cousin died yesterday, you could say, “Damn, dude. That’s heavy...”
Hella – a lot or very. This is common in Northern California (NorCal), but people in Southern California (SoCal) tend to hate this word. For example, there were hella people at the beach today.
Hyphy – to go crazy, without inhibition. This is generally used when partying. For example, if you’re planning on drinking a lot and dancing a lot, you could say to your friends, “Let’s get hyphy tonight!”
Mob – similar to cruise, but it usually implies to come quickly, often by foot, bike, or skateboard. (Mob also means a large crowd of people.) For example, if you ask someone to cruise over to your house after work, and they say they don’t have a car you can say, “Just mob, dude.
Poppin’ – when a party or other similar event is really fun, usually because there’s a lot of cool people. For example, “The party’s poppin’, get over here!”
Post up – to stand around (often leaning against a wall) without doing much. You can use this when telling some to wait for you, “Just post up here, I’ll be right back,” or if you’re in the club, “hey let’s post up by the bar.” This is a little bit like hang out.
Psyched – when you’re excited for something. For example, “I’m so psyched for this concert!”
Pumped (up) – similar meaning as psyched. When you’re excited and have a lot of energy. For example, “I’m so pumped up to go snowboarding this weekend.”
Put (someone) on blast – to make fun of someone in front of other people. If someone is making fun of your new haircut at a party in front of other people, you could say, “Yo dude, why’re you putting me on blast?”
To Rock (something) – to wear clothes/accessories with style. (Rock also means to move gently from side to side.) For example, if someone asked to borrow white sock from me, I could say, “Sorry man, I only rock black socks.” Also, asking someone, “Can I rock this?” is another way of saying, “Does this look good on me?”
Sketch(y) – something that is dangerous, stupid, or just doesn’t feel right. When used to refer to a person it can also mean they are untrustworthy, creepy, or just someone you don’t feel comfortable being around. For example, “Look at that sketchy guy over in the corner talking to himself.”
Stunnas – sunglasses (usually big and fancy). You can also say “stunna shades.” For example, if you’re going to the beach you could say to your friend, “Make sure you bring your stunna shades.” Music video about wearing stunna shades indoors.
Swooped – to steal/take. (Swoop also means a fast, downward movement through the air, usually by a bird.) This is also used when you’re trying to get with a girl and someone else ends up hooking up with her. For example, if you’re sitting in the front of a car and you leave to go to the bathroom, and someone takes your spot, they swooped you (or you “got swooped”).
Jeff Spicoli is a former international surfing champion and California native. Holding a GED from Ridgemont High, he also has a solid reputation for evading authorities.
Jeff has included a video recording of his 1982 television interview just after his Hawaiian Internationals victory. >>