Sometimes, in informal settings, Californians can sound like they are speaking a different language. No matter how many years you have studied the English language, you still might not know the proper response when someone asks you ‘what’s up?’ (the sky?) or ‘should we bail?’ (bail who?!).
Here is a list of some of the most common slang words used in Los Angeles. If you use these words in daily conversation, you’ll blend in with the locals! But be aware that these are only appropriate in informal settings. Don’t address your teachers by ‘dude,’ as this can be very disrespectful!
Originally a term surfers used to describe the intensity of a wave, this word has now been adapted to everyday language. It means that something is extreme or severe, either in a good or bad way.
Example: I didn’t wear sunscreen yesterday at the beach, and now I have a gnarly sunburn!
When used as a noun, ‘dude’ simply means ‘friend.’ It is an informal way to refer to a person, or can also be used to express disbelief or shock.
Example: What’s up, dude? or Duuuude! That parking ticket that I got in Hollywood last week cost me $84!
Sketchy or shady
These words refer to a thing or a situation that appears unsafe or unreliable.
Example: That dark alleyway behind the canals in Venice looks sketchy.
Bounce or roll out
Both of these terms mean to leave a place, and are generally interchangeable.
Example: I’m going to bounce. I have to wake up early tomorrow.
This word describes something that is very cool.
Example: That red Ferrari that’s always parked on Wilshire is sick!
Hit (someone) up
This phrase means to call someone, usually with the purpose of meeting up.
Example: I hit Sarah up to see if she wanted to go to the Grove with me and shop.
To ‘bail’ means to leave a place, usually early or suddenly. It can also mean to cancel plans with someone at the last minute.
Example: I went to the party, but bailed when I realized the host was giving a sales pitch on herbal supplements. or I had weekend plans to watch a free concert in Grand Park, but Sam bailed on me.
When something unexpected happens in a time when it is needed.
Example: Those extra quarters in my pocket were clutch when I needed exact change for the bus.
This term means to accompany someone, or go/leave somewhere.
Example: We cruised to the beach.
This means to stand around without leaving an area for a period of time.
Example: Let’s post up in the shade — it’s hot outside.
Put (someone) on blast
To expose a secret about someone or reprimand, or, make fun of them in public.
Example: My teacher caught me on my phone in class, and put me on blast in front of my classmates.
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