SoCal Slang Is Coo

There’s an old saying that “all politics is local,” meaning that all political elections, even for president, depend on the conditions in the city or area where you are living. If the economy is bad in your city, it doesn’t matter that it is good in other cities – you only care about your city, your local conditions, and you will vote accordingly (following that logic or reasoning).

We could also say that “all language is local.”  Most Americans speak English, but the kind or variety of English depends on where you live.  We all know this, I think, but sometimes it is good to remind ourselves that what we say in our city may not be the same as in other cities, even when we speak the same language.

Slang – informal language used by a particular (specific; certain) group or in a particular context (situation) – is also local, and changes depending on where you live.  Researchers have recently studied the kind of language people use in text messages and tweets, or messages on the Internet service Twitter.  They analyzed tweets in the U.S. that were geotagged, meaning the person who sent the tweet also indicated their location on their iPhone or Blackberry.  They then looked to see how people used language in one area versus (compared to) another.

Using some powerful statistical techniques, the scientists were able to predict the general area where a person lived just by looking at the kind of slang they used.  They also gave examples of slang associated with certain cities:

  • In Northern California (San Francisco, the Silicon Valley), the word “hella” is very popular in tweets.  Hella is an expression of enthusiasm.  According to the Urban Dictionary, it can mean “very,” “a lot of,” or “something really good or great.”  For example: “People in San Francisco think they are hella (much; a lot) smarter than people in SoCal (Southern California, which includes Los Angeles).”  Hella is apparently (it seems) very popular in San Francisco, but not in Los Angeles.  (I’ve never used it before writing this blog post, for example.)
  • In Southern California, people use an abbreviated (shortened) form of the word “cool” (meaning good, popular, hip), “coo.”  In Northern California, they tweet “koo” for “cool,” perhaps using a “k” instead of a “c” due to (because of) their lower level of education (that’s a joke!).
  • Southern Californians tweet “fasho” to mean “for sure,” when they are expressing agreement with something.
  • New Yorkers use the letters “nm” to mean “not much” in tweets and texts, while people in Boston write “suttin” to mean “something.”

There’s nothing really new in this research, but it does confirm (verify; show again that it is true) that what we say depends on where we live. Every language in every country has similar differences, even if you are not aware of them.


P.S. The scientific article is available here in PDF format.

P.P.S.  ESL Podcast has been on Twitter nearly (almost) since the very beginning of the service, back in 2006.  You can follow us @eslpod.

Image Credit: Twitter logo (low resolution), Wikipedia PD

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13 Responses to SoCal Slang Is Coo

  1. Sergio says:

    Very interesting this topic, Jeff.
    In my opinion the language is very important in our life. From “tongue” to “language”, how many nuances there are…
    I think we are not simply “what” we say but above all “how” we tell that – a word, a sentence, a speech.
    My life, my story couldn’t be the same if I grew up saying “sea” rather than “mare” rather than “morje”…
    Nowadays we can see the language following two different ways. First, from dialects to the one-dimensional language…
    Pasolini (a famous Italian writer and director) said: The Italian – not only the language… but the people too! –
    has been made by the television, not at all by Dante (who wrote “La Divina Commedia”)!
    And now, seeing what Jeff told us in this post, from the one-dimensional language (English) to the slang (vernacular):
    it seems people likes to evolve by differentiation, always toward Babel!
    A great German poet, Hölderlin, said: “What lasts, build the Poets”
    Whatever their language is, I add…

  2. emiliano says:

    Thank you so much Jeff, I think it is interesting to have some knowledge about the use
    of the language.
    I think it depends of the age of persons, where they are living and also which kind of
    device or site they use.

    Yes, that´s what you said and I think it is absolutely true.
    My own situation is that I like to use always a right grammar if it is possible or I have
    enough knowledge to use good Spanish or English.
    It´s late to change my mind about this matter.

    All the best to you Jeff and best regards.

  3. Peter says:

    I can’t understand
    Why do people go out of their way to improvise some weirds words
    Why don’t they use the actual words
    What is wrong with the word”cool” that people twist it into coo or whatever nonsense it is
    You know what
    Some people have too much free time
    I never use those abbreviations
    And,I text alot
    You wanna text something
    Keep it simple
    Why the hassle

  4. John says:

    Thank you for this interesting article Jeff.

    @Peter: I believe this is just the natural way how language evolved.
    Without neologism (creating new words) we would have limited vocabulary and therefore be limited in our ways to express ourselves.
    As you said “you wanna text something – keep it simple”, that’s exactly what people who use these abbreviations are trying to do: keep their message short and simple^^

  5. Hilario says:

    BABEL TOWERS: I quite agree on the importance of localism as a wide concept that affects a lot of things around us and in great deal to our daily lifes. The question regarding language adquisition is that this local o regional expressions can act as a real language barrier for english learners, very confusing for most of us who are outsiders to a particular slang. When we listen these slippery and short linked words in the middle of a conversation among native american or british English people, first we hear laugh and then we ask them what of they are laughing at . Sometimes it is even difficult for them to explain in short the meaning of the expression. I can imagine the similar situation for non-native Spanish speakers when trying to catch up some slang words as they are used throughout south american countries or in their Mother Land of Spain. Thanks a lot for quoting the address of the as a great site resource for learning a little bit more of this language topic.

  6. Ziba says:

    Thank u Jiff, It is interesting with good and useful words as usual.

    Nowadays people try to use simple words and abbreviate most of the words they use in their conversations. You can see or hear these kinds of abbreviated words everywhere.

    In my country people with low classes live in south of cities and they use these kind of words most.
    They use them in informal ways, for example when they meet each other they say “Salam” (means hello in English) for greeting but some abbreviate it to “Sam”.

    I don’t agree with this kind of abbreviation because children learn them very quickly and use them everywhere.
    The way you talk shows your class here.

  7. Peter says:

    Thanks for the input Jhon
    And thank you for reading my comment
    In a way you are right but the cyber language you are referring to never catch on.
    Because is a language that does not have any practical use
    It never forms a language
    It is just a mutated , subdivision of the language .

  8. Peter says:

    To me it is a depraved plant ruin the authencity of a language :)))
    Those abbreviations are like cancers for languages

  9. Peter says:

    I guess,
    I rested my case 🙂
    The discussion is moot from this point on.

    I m an embodiment of the can’t be of everything childish:)
    Funny remarks are there?:)
    I m taking an improve class:)
    I would disable this tarnish

  10. Betty says:

    Thank you so much, Jeff, for this interesting topic.

    It is so true, different places in one country speak differently. If you listen to how people talk, they even use different types of words and phrases at work and at home..

    Warren’s topic ‘FYI and LOL in OED? OMG!’ on THURSDAY – APRIL 14, 2011 also told us some new trend or development in English language.

    According to one website about ‘trendy language’ in Chinese Cantonese, young people like to invent a different set of language in order to break free from the original set of language, to be rebellion. They are happy if people outside their clan (group) do not understand their ‘secret’ language.

    It seems silly to follow the young people and use slang; but if you want to win their hearts, you need to speak the same language. The Chief Executive Officer (head) of our government in Hong Kong used some of the slang in one of his propaganda TV programme recently. It was successful because people felt that he was ‘cool’.

  11. Peter says:

    The beauty of listening to jeff using iPhone is
    You can copy down all Jeff’s Talk as he speaks
    A huge self-test to check your comprehension abilities and skills
    It helps a lot
    Doing this,I have all the audio some how ecthed on my memory

  12. sara B says:

    Veery interesting topic, Jeff, one question: hella is a short of “a hell of”, isn´t it?

    I´ve read “helluva” in some of the books of Stephen King, and for the context, I had translated it the same: “a hell of “. Is it right, too? maybe is an expression of Maine? I don´t know, I say it because S.King is from Maine.

    In any case, I think ESLPod is a hella blog! (is this correct? can this be interpreted as a bad thing? I hope not)

  13. sara says:

    Thanks Dear Dr.jeff.Yes I do also believe that “all language is local” AND if not all at least a major part of it.

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