Los Angeles. L.A. The City of Angels. City of Flowers and Sunshine. The Big Orange. The Entertainment Capital of the World. Tinsel town. La-La-Land. Center of the Universe. All names used to describe this amorphous 469 square mile (1,215km) stretch of land in Southern California.
Los Angeles has captivated the attention of the world for decades and is the center of pop culture, with Hollywood at the center producing blockbuster hits year after year.
However, if one wants to pull back the thinly layered curtain and gain a deeper insight into the City of Angels, one must first learn the lingo that locals use. There is an almost endless amount of slang and colloquialisms that natives use in daily life. Where to begin?
In this article, I will give a general overview of the geography of Los Angeles and how locals refer to it. Then I will introduce some common slang words along with example sentences so you can start using them with your friends.
Let's first start with geography. The area known as Los Angeles stretches from the beaches to the mountains. The Santa Monica Mountains extend from the Hollywood Hills in the east to Point Mugu in Ventura County in west. This mountain range separates the San Fernando Valley (often referred to “the Valley”) in the north from the Los Angeles basin in the south.
The Los Angeles River (known as the L.A. River) flows through Los Angeles County in “the Valley” for 48 miles (77 km) southeast down to its mouth in Long Beach (known as the LBC for short). In truth, the L.A. River doesn't have any flowing water and is used more as a concrete border between neighborhoods.
How do natives refer to the areas within LA? First, we say Downtown LA to refer to Downtown Los Angeles (sometimes known as DTLA). The west side of Los Angeles is referred to as “the Westside”. This includes Beverly Hills, which is famous for Rodeo Drive. Locals say Rodeo “Rho-day-yo” for short.
Wilshire Boulevard is one of the main roads that runs from Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles to Ocean Avenue in the city of Santa Monica, connecting LA's five business districts together. It runs through Korea Town, which is called K-town for short.
“The Pier” refers to the Santa Monica Pier, and “the boardwalk” means the Venice Beach Boardwalk. The PCH is short for the Pacific Coast Highway, which runs up and down the coast. Surf City, USA denotes Huntington Beach for its excellent surf breaks and beaches and is really in Orange County which is south of Los Angeles County.
Freeways are the lifeblood that connects the hundreds of neighborhoods and suburbs of Los Angles together. The 105 (Century Freeway), the 405 (San Diego Freeway), the 10 (Santa Monica Freeway), the 5 (Golden State Freeway), the 101 (Ventura Freeway), the 110 (Harbor Freeway), all refer to freeways in Los Angles. The formula for freeways is “The [insert highway]”. The 405 in particular is located on the Westside of Los Angeles and is notorious for its traffic and endless construction. If you ever are in Los Angeles, avoid the 405 at all costs.
Westwood is a neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles. It is the location of the University of California Los Angeles (often just called UCLA). South Pasadena is called South Pass and Pasadena is called the DENA. The whole of Southern California is called SoCal and the North is called Nor Cal. The Los Angeles International Airport is always referred to a L-A-X, not lax or L.A. airport.
Now for specific slang used in Los Angeles.
Dude: a word that can be used for almost any occasion. Commonly used as a greeting to male friends and jokingly to girls. Can also be used as an adjective to express amazement or awe.
- “Dude, how have you been?”
- “Duuude!” (for amazement, emphasis, or wonder)
- “Dude, you have no idea what happened to me last night.”
- “Dude, I just won the lottery. OMG!!”
Check out the Dude Where's My Car trailer on YouTube.
Sweet: Basically, something that is awesome. It can be used to express excitement, satisfaction, approval, or awe. Often used together with dude and man.
- “Duuuude! Sweet man, congratulations on your new job.”
- “Sweeeet! I just got the day off.”
- “Aww that is so sweet of you to buy me flowers.”
- “He is such a sweet guy. I want to marry him.”
- “Awe, you are so sweet. It's sickening.”
- “Man, that show was so sweet!”
Totally: A word used in the Valley, mostly by girls in conjunction with like and OMG. It means “of course!” or just used to add emphasis to a sentence.
- “Like that's totally awesome!”
- “Are you coming to my birthday party?” “Like, totally girl!”
- “I totally failed that test.”
- “He totally lied to my face.”
- “I was totally shocked when he told me that he wanted to breakup with me. Like OMG. How could he do this to me?”
Don't trip: don't worry about it. Does not mean to watch out and not fall down.
- “Dude, don't trip. It's no biggie.” (no big deal)
- “Don't trip man. I got this.”
- “Don't trip Mom. I will totally finish my homework before we go out.”
- “Don't trip chocolate chip. It's going to be alright.”
Bro: often used between males as a friendly greeting—Interchangeable with man. Be careful not to overuse it or you will come across as a college frat boy. Can be pronounced as “bra” for a more surfer vibe with a playful attitude.
- “Bro! how have you been?”
- “Braaa, how have you been? It's been way too long.”
- “Bro, how are doing?”
- “Bro, I miss you.”
- “Bro, what's up?”
- “He's my best bro. We go way back…like all the way back to elementary school.”
Clutch: To describe a situation where someone performed under pressure and was victorious. A crucial moment in a game or battle that determines success or failure.
- “He made the basket in the last second of the game. Man, that was so clutch!”
- “Meet my friend Christian. He is so clutch. He comes through every time I need him.”
Also, used to describe something that happen that was exactly what you needed at that moment or wanted.
- “I was driving home late at night and was running out of gas. I thought I didn't have any money in my wallet, but then I found a $20 bill that was hidden in one of the pockets. Man, that was so clutch! I made it home with gas to spare.”
In the next article, I will provide more slang words and common phrases to help you sound more like a native Angelino. Stay tuned!
Hero image by Roger (CC BY-SA 2.0)