10 Things Only People From the West Coast Say (Slideshow)
August 19, 2016
How many of these West Coast terms do you know?
“A grip” of something means a large quantity. This is generally only used in Southern California, though other West Coast residents may still recognize and understand the phrase. It is generally used to replace “a lot,” so you could say something like, “A grip of people from the West Coast are going to say they’ve never heard this term.” It can also be used to refer to a lengthy amount of time, as in, “I haven’t heard that phrase used in a grip.” This term is sometimes heard in rap lyrics, but in those instances it’s mostly just used as a slang term for a lot of money.
Photo by Tiffany D. via Yelp
“Animal Style” is a term associated with, and trademarked by, the In-N-Out fast-food burger chain. When you ask for an Animal Style burger, you’ll get a mustard-grilled patty, grilled onions, extra pickles, and extra thousand island spread. You can also order Animal Style fries, which come with cheese, spread, and grilled onions. Since In-N-Out is only available in California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona (OK, Texas too, but let’s forget about that for a second), it’s a term generally only known and used by West Coasters.
Isn’t it odd that we use the terms “up north,” “down south,” “out west,” and “back east”? Aside from us as humans arbitrarily deciding that north is up and south is down (a discussion for another day), “back east” assumes that people in the West came from the East and will inevitably return back home. Yet this is still the preferred phrasing for West Coasters — even though most of them were probably born on the Pacific side of the country.
Well, of course, only people from the West Coast would use the term “Best Coast” to refer to their home region. (Unless there’s some self-hating East Coasters out there joining the party.) Folks from the East have tried to counter with “Beast Coast,” but it just doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.
In California, free controlled access highways are referred to as “freeways.” The opposite of this is a toll road. Although toll-free highways exist in abundance outside of the West Coast, that region is one of the only places that routinely uses the term “freeway.”
“Hella” or “Hecka”
“Hella” is a slang term for “very,” “really,” and “a lot” that originated in the San Francisco region before expanding to the greater Northern California area. Used mostly by the younger crowd, the music industry made it mainstream for a short time in the late ‘90s (as did the 1998 South Park episode “Spookyfish”), but the word mostly fell out of vocabularies outside of the west coast in the 2000s. Even there, it’s not nearly as popular as it was 15 or 20 years ago. Some folks also use or used the term “hecka” in a similar way, but it wasn’t hella popular.
A marine layer is an air mass that develops over the surface of a large body of water in the presence of a temperature inversion. In America, this commonly occurs on the West Coast, where the offshore marine layer moves inland and blankets coastal communities in cooler air which, if saturated, contains fog. This haze lingers until the temperature rises enough to evaporate it, which usually occurs in the afternoon. This combines with the abundant pollutants in the air around large cities, creating smog. While “marine layer” is a common term on the West Coast, most people back east would probably think it’s something in the ocean.
A “SigAlert” is defined by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) as "any unplanned event that causes the closing of one lane of traffic for 30 minutes or more." The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) uses it for any traffic incident that will tie up two or more lanes of a freeway for two or more hours. SigAlert warnings are posted on the CHP website, broadcast on radio and TV, and alerted to motorists via electronic freeway signs.
The name originated from a specialized radio receiver and reel-to-reel tape recorder invented by Loyd C. “Sig” Sigmon to alert radio station engineers that a traffic-related message had been received and recorded from the police department. As for the correct spelling, there isn’t one. The CHP website actually uses “SIG Alert, “SigAlert,” and Sigalert” interchangeably — sometimes on the same page.
This is one of the few Chinook Jargon terms to have a lasting and mainstream usage in the Pacific Northwest. However, its meaning is varied and rather confusing. “Skookum” can replace positive adjectives like “strong” or “monstrous,” or refer to someone who is reliable. The noun version refers to a mythical Bigfoot-like creature. A “skookum house” can mean a jail or prison. “Skookumchuck” describes turbulent water or rapids, such as those in a steam or river. It’s not widely used anymore, but most folks in the PNW are at least familiar with it (sometimes from the names of places or people), and it’s the only place you’ll hear the term in America. (For the record, it is also used in British Columbia.)
“The” + Route Number
Used mostly in Southern California (and apparently also Arizona), people not only prefer to use the route or interstate number instead of the full name, but they also replace the words “route” and “interstate” with “the.” So instead of telling someone to “take the San Diego Freeway to the Santa Monica Freeway,” they’ll say “take the 405 to the 10.” And for the record, that’s “four-oh-five,” not “four-zero-five” or “four-hundred five.”