(Courtesy of Prospect Park Books)

Sound Hella Local: New Book Teaches How to Talk Like a Californian

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Any San Franciscan worth her $4 toast will assuredly clench her teeth at the unholy utterance of "San Fran." (Just typing those two words caused our digits to twitch.)

We abide by a certain vernacular around here—we're fond of referring to things as "hella good," especially around 420, which was, in fact, a Bay Area–birthed locution. Whereas other Golden State communities may proudly refer to themselves as merely Californians, we tend to denounce the one-dimensional label. We are cut from a different cloth; we are, very much so, woven into the fabric of NorCal. We are San Franciscans, and we couldn't be any more phonetically different than our Los Angeles brethren. As such, we don't fill in our conversational gray areas with a half-dozen "likes," nor do we refer to every other bystander as either a "dude" or "bro." Or worse—"bra." (Well, at least some of us don't.)


Author Colleen Dunn Bates has caught onto the unique dialects spoken in the various regions of California and, in her new book, Talk Like a Californian: A Hella Fresh Guide to Golden State Speak, she has quite a good bit of fun (under the pen name Helena Ventura) poking at Hollywood folk, tech bros, surfers, and so on.


"I've heard the same thing my whole life: people moving to L.A. and pronouncing Sepulveda, Sep-ul-VAY-duh," the author told The New York Times. "It's one of those rituals of shame that newcomers to L.A. go through."

(Courtesy of Prospect Park Books)

On this side of the Golden Gate Bridge, we have our own unique style of stringing words together. Here are just a few examples of some hella hyperlocal bits of SF slang:


  • "The Town" is Oakland, duh.
  • "The City" refers to SF, of course.
  • "The 415" is the only area code that really matters.
  • "Scrappers" are basically 22-year-old, tricked-out Buicks and Oldsmobiles.
  • "Whips," for everything else on four wheels.
  • "Cuddy" refers to your cousin or something (we're still not quite sure).
  • It's pronounced BURR-Nal Heights, once and for all.
  • "Hella," for when you're feeling especially hyped.
  • Hunan Café #2 is located at 4450 Cah-BRILLO Street.
  • "Hyphy," if saying hyperactive becomes too tedious for you.
  • When you're just "tryna" get to In-N-Out before they close 1am.
  • "Bootsie" for those things that just aren't hella good.
  • Some of the best Japanese food can be found right off Goff Street.
  • "Slaps" are just hyphy, up-beat club bangers.
  • 420—need we say more?
  • KON-kerd is in East Bay,
  • Koja Kitchen is on Kluh-MENT Street


Dive deeper into NorCal lingo, and pick up some SoCal slang to practice with Dodgers fans at the next big face-off, by picking up a copy of Talk Like a Californian ($11) at Barnes & Noble.

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