Tag Archives: Southern California

Southern California Slang: “Hesh”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: March 4, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Interviewer: What does Hesh mean?

Informant- It’s a casual word I use when talking about a vibe or aesthetic. I would use it as an adjective to describe someone or their Instagram. It means that someone has a causal aloof style and vibe. Like they don’t really care or have a skater look to them. Someone who is hesh is down to earth and goes with the flow. Usually, they never look into the camera in pictures or post photos of aesthetic things. 

Interviewer- Does it describe people and places? How would you use it?

Informant-  It describes a person and their style, not a place. I would say, “ She is so chill and has a hesh vibe.”

Interviewer- Who do you use the word with? Would some people not understand you? 

Informant- I only use the word with my friends and feel people on the eat coast wouldn’t understand it. 

Background: The informant shares that she used the word frequently in casual situations with her southern California friends. She learned the word from her southern California friends.  The word represents a style and aesthetic of a casual skater vibe. The word is an adjective used to describe the character of a person. She likes to repeat the word because it describes a characteristic that other adjectives don’t capture. She explains that she and her friends all understand what it means and communicates. It is an esthetic that she and her friends strive to have. 

Context: The interview above was taken in a casual setting as the informant recalling times using the word hesh. 

Thoughts: The word ‘Hesh’ is a slang used in with young adults in Southern California. The slang word describes a vibe and character that other words can not. This aspect brings exclusivity to the group that uses the word. The aesthetic of Hesh has positive connotations and is a popular ‘cool’ term. The word has original roots from the 1980’s LA skater community and subcultures.  From the informant’s description, the term also carries a digital aspect applying to social media platforms like Instagram. She describes Instagram aesthetics that strive to be hesh with their posts. 

“Sah Dude?” As a Greeting

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Dimas, CA/Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Informant: “Sah dude?” It is basically saying, what’s up, dude? Usually there are some kinda handshakes involved, usually like a hang lose, or a rock on sign. 

Interviewer: Who used this?

Informant: Usually teenage young adult men. A lot of the guys with trucks that I went to school with. I think that says enough, haha. 

Interviewer: Did you ever use it? 

Informant: No. I mean I did on occasion, but I would say it back sorta like in a mocking way. I was also kind of a tomboy so maybe that is why they always did it with me as well? The people who used it the most were on the Dive team at my high school, at least when I was there. But now I see a lot of people at school use it, a lot of the frat bros use it when they see each other at parties and I have started using it a little bit more because of it.

Background

My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 

Context

My informant took me back to her hometown the week of her birthday to visit her family and to get her tire fixed. She wanted to show me around the city before we went back to LA, and decided to stop at a local strawberry farm. The worker there was a good friend of hers from high school, and when they saw each other they greeted each other by saying “Suh Dude?” Remembering this instance, I brought it up with her when she was willing to interview with me and explained the greeting to me. 

Analysis

I find it interesting that this folk greeting seems to be very popular at USC and the greater Los Angeles area among young men. It is easy to say where they got the saying from, as it is a condensed way of saying “what is up, dude?” and is probably much more convenient for them to say. Usually, this greeting is accompanied with some sort of handshake between males, leading me to believe it is an indicator of masculinity that is being expressed in this greeting. Although my informant is a female, she has expressed that since she is a tomboy they usually greet her the same way. 

The Haunted Hotel del Coronado

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: Undergraduate Student
Residence: Evanston, IL / San Diego, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/15/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Piece:

Interviewer: “Can you try and explain the story of the haunted Hotel del Coronado?”

Informant: “To be honest I’m not sure how much I remember, but Hotel del Coronado is a uhh… historic hotel on Coronado island near San Diego. I’ve been there once as a kid but I mainly remember people around my elementary school saying that it was haunted and that there was some connection to Bloody Mary or something. Maybe there was a girl who went to the hotel and didn’t come back? Anyways, I don’t believe the stories but whenever I hear the song ‘Hotel California’ I think of that hotel in Coronado. There are definitely some lyrics in that song that deal with being haunted, so I’ve always wondered if there is a connection there… Probably not, but it is interesting to think about.”

Background:

The informant knew about the haunted hotel from his peers in elementary school and his visit to the location. He does not personally believe the stories that it is truly haunted.

Context:

This description came in a phone conversation I had with the informant while we were discussing childhood stories and songs.

Thoughts:

I found the informants connection to the popular Eagles song ‘Hotel California’ very interesting, so I went ahead and researched some of the lyrics of that song, where there were indeed references to not being able to leave the hotel, which is eerily similar to the informants description of the girl never returning from the hotel. While it is unlikely the two are explicitly connected, I think the similarities showcase the archetypal nature of legends like ghost stories and haunted hotels; even if the buildings being discussed are not the same, the stories behind their haunted nature probably stem from a common archetype. Furthermore, I did some research into the legend of the haunted Hotel del Coronado, and found that the hotel itself is even advertising its haunted nature, showcasing how this urban legend has been commercialized in the name of tourism by the hotel itself.

Annotation:

For the “canon” version of the story behind the haunted hotel provided by the hotel’s website, see the hotel’s website:

“Ghostly Goings-On at the Hotel del Coronado.” Hotel del Coronado, Hilton, hoteldel.com/press/ghostly-goings-hotel-del-coronado/. Accessed 23 Apr. 2019.

The Man in The Gray Suit

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Malibu, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/9/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Interviewer: Do you have any slang or terms from growing up surfing?

CW: Yeah have you ever heard about the man in the gray suit?

Interviewer: No I have not what does that mean?

CW: It’s a term, surfers use at the beach if they see a shark to warn everybody else to get out of the water.

Interviewer: why do people use that term and not just say shark?

CW: People use it because it is a lot more of a calm thing for someone to hear when they are in the water with a shark. It helps to avoid people panicking but if your in an area where people are surfing, which is where it is used, then everyone knows that means shark and it helps them be more calm while getting out of the water. 

Interviewer: Have you ever used this warning or had it used for you?

CW: I’ve never used it but I’ve been on the beach while people yelled it out to surfers. But since I’ve grown up surfing I’ve known to react to the term and have known it for most of my life. 

Interviewer: Is this a term used at specific surf spots you got to or from your knowledge do all surfers know and use this term?

CW: From my knowledge, this is just a term I know is used in Malibu and Santa Monica. I’ve surfed in other places like San Diego and Hawaii but I’ve never heard the term mentioned in those places. 

Interviewer: Is there any other terms you have heard or learned of that do the same function of calmly warning of a shark?

CW: Yeah in Hawaii they use the Hawaiian word Manu. 

Context: My informant is an eighteen-year-old student at USC. He was born in raised in Malibu California. He has surfed nearly his entire life, primarily in Malibu but also in Santa Monica, Hawaii, and San Diego. This folk term was explained in person in the informant’s dorm.

Analysis: This is an interesting piece of folk language used by surfers in Southern California. I have never been a surfer and assumed the appropriate way to warn people of a shark would be by exclaiming that a shark is in the water, but this term seems to be a great way to keep people calm so they can get out of the water in a safer manner. It also is an example of how surfers in Southern California have unique folklore. 

 

Lady Idyllwild

--Informant Info--
Nationality: German American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Anaheim, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 11, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant recalls a story that he heard when he was in 7th grade, during a three-day school camping trip in the Idyllwild Mountains of the San Bernadino forest.

“I was in my cabin with a bunch of other classmates, and my friend’s brother, who was in 8th grade, began telling us a scary story. We were all huddled around when he started. So, it was basically a young married couple driving through the Idyllwild Mountains on a snowy day, when their car got stalled on the road. The husband is sitting in the passenger seat, and he gets out of the car to try and fix it, while his pregnant wife sits inside to wait for him. He opens the hood of the car to look inside, so now the wife can’t see him anymore because her view is blocked by the hood. After 20 minutes, the car has still not been fixed, and the wife realizes that she hasn’t seen or heard her husband at all. She gets out of the car into the snow, and realizes that her husband is nowhere to be found, even though the hood is still wide open. She looks around for a bit, and notices a perfectly straight red line in the snow, and wonders, “How did a straight line like that get there?” Then, she looks up and notices that her husband’s severed head is above her, attached to a tree by a rope, shooting blood and swinging like a pendulum, which is why the red line was there. I don’t really remember how, but the story goes that Lady Idyllwild appears suddenly, looking very pale white with white hair and a white dress, but with blood-red eyes. She kills the the woman somehow, and then after, for some reason, she warns the dead couple that tourists are not allowed on Mt. Idyllwild, although they’re already dead so I guess it’s a little too late. I think maybe Lady Idyllwild took the unborn baby. But yeah.”

Do you remember your reaction to the story?

“I literally could not sleep. I remember that the guy in the bunk above me couldn’t sleep either, so we sorta talked the whole night about how scared we were. My friend’s older brother, the guy telling the story, was sort of an asshole, so it totally made sense that he would try and scare us so bad right before bed. Also, it didn’t help that it was actually snowing outside of our cabin, and I had the bed right next to the window, so I couldn’t sleep at all.”

 

Collector’s Conclusions:

This sounds like a classic campfire/cabin story to scare younger children, especially in the informant’s situation at a sleepaway camp. Like many other ghost stories, this is one involving a ghostly woman, who is tied to a specific location, in this case, Mt. Idyllwild. The contrast between the white snow and the red blood is significant, perhaps indicating some symbolism related to females or motherhood, and the fact that Lady Idyllwild takes the woman’s baby hints towards some connection to motherhood. Parallels can be drawn between this story and the La Llorona legend, and others like it. For the informant, this folklore was probably more impactful because he was actually in he was in the location in which the story allegedly occurred, which is an example of context affecting belief.

Turtlenecks and surfer culture don’t mix.

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Irish-American
Age: 54
Occupation: Water resources manager
Residence: Pasadena, CA / San Francisco, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/17/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

MH is a third-generation Irish-American originally from Battle Creek, MI, who relocated to Santa Barbara, CA in high school.

MH had a tough adjustment period when he moved out West:

“My sophomore year our family left the Midwest and moved to Santa Barbara, and my brothers and I had to start a new high school in the middle of the year…I wasn’t bullied or anything, but there was a period where the other kids were a little confused by me, I think. I was on the basketball team, and one day at practice the balls kept rolling out the door and into the hallway, so my coach told me to go close them. These guys were standing in the doorway, this one guy, Rich Cooke, who was on the football team. I guess he knew who I was, because when I told them I needed to close the doors he yelled something at me like, ‘you think you’re so much better in your turtlenecks,’ something dumb like that to make fun of how I dressed. So I pushed him out into the hallway, beat him up, closed the door and walked back into the gym like nothing had happened. And I stopped wearing turtlenecks after that.”

My analysis:

This story shows how material things, like clothes or cars, can help facilitate folk culture for certain groups whether they like it or not. In MH’s case, his preppier wardrobe communicated a stuffiness or snobbish attitude to his new classmates in Southern California, who were wearing more boardshorts than club attire. Unfortunately for Rich Cooke, stereotyping and playing into those folk beliefs isn’t always an effective way to understand someone from another “culture.” And at a time when teenagers are very focused on their identity, he may have felt threatened by MH’s ability to integrate into the school’s culture (besides his clothes), even as an outsider.

Surf vocabulary

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA / Denver, CO
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/18/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

DK is a junior at the University of Southern California, but also a transfer from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

At UCSB, DK had many friends who surfed, and while she didn’t participate she was surrounded by the culture:

“My surfer friends had a lot of really weird vocabulary. They used to call people ‘kooks,’ almost always to make fun of them, and eventually I understood that it described kids who don’t really know surfer etiquette or are new to the sport, so in everyday life it’s just someone who’s a spaz or disrespectful, kind of oblivious.

“‘Frothing’ is another one they’d use a lot, which is just a synonym for excited, like you’d say ‘I’m so excited for dinner, I’m absolutely frothing!’ They use it to describe wave sets a lot.

“One I really liked was ‘grom,’ and when I went surfing with them one time they kept calling me that. It’s kind of similar to ‘kook,’ I think, except not so much someone who’s disrespectful. I think it’s mostly for people who are new to surfing or just a really young and excited surfer.”

My analysis:

Groups that bond over a common activity always seem to have their own culture, and DK gave me some great examples of vocabulary that would only be understood by people who surfed. It’s interesting to see how the words are applied both out in the ocean and in everyday life, and surfers are constantly drawing comparisons between the two worlds. DK also said she’s heard surfers at USC use the same language, but sometimes with slightly varied meanings. I’ve also heard of different surfers using different “lingo,” and there seem to be regional differences even in Southern California, depending on where your local spot is. Hawaiian surfers don’t use the above vocabulary, and Manhattan Beach surfers aren’t going around saying “shaka.”

US-Mexico Border urban legends

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA / Ames, IA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/17/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

MR is a student at the University of Southern California, originally from Ames, IA.

MR shared a harrowing story that she’d heard from a friend in San Diego:

“My friend told me that in high school, there were kids who would sometimes cross the border into Tijuana to go out and party, and then they’d just post up on a hotel before driving back the next day…one year some kids went after finals and were out at a bar, and one of their girl friends was hanging out with a guy behind the bar. She told them she was going to stay and hang out with him, and that she’d call them when she was on her way back to their hotel…by morning no one had heard from her yet, and her phone calls would go straight to voicemail. They went back to the bar from last night and tried to show the owner a picture of the man that they’d taken last night, but the owner said he’d never seen him before. They drove around everywhere trying to find signs of their friend, but at some point they knew they had to get back to San Diego and would have to talk to the police then, after talking to the border patrol. So they started driving back and they were waiting in line to be search by border patrol, while they were talking to them also freaking out about their missing friend.

All of a sudden in another line they see something going on, and the cops are talking to this guy who has a sleeping girl wearing sunglasses in the passenger seat. The cops tell the guy he can’t cross the border unless he can wake the girl up, and he’s putting up a lot of resistance. Finally they take off the girl’s sunglasses and realize she’s dead – at the base of her spine there’s an incision, and her spine has been padded by bags of cocaine.”

My analysis:

While this story initially freaked me out, MR offered her reservations about the whole thing. It seems like there are a lot of these nightmarish stories about cartels using dead bodies to smuggle drugs over the border, but there are almost no records of such a crime actually taking place. MR thinks these stories are used near the Mexican border to scare kids like her friend from going across to get away with drinking or partying, or at least encourage them to be extra-vigilant. It also makes those in the drug business as monstrous, inhuman entities, maybe making it easier to discriminate against people like them (ie. Mexicans in general). Legends like this seem pretty common in border communities, but luckily it doesn’t sound like they’re true.

For more information on stories like this, see:

Mikkelson, David. “Drugs Smuggled In Dead Baby.” Snopes 23 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.snopes.com/horrors/drugs/deadbaby.asp

Road Sign Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/15/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

“So like if you’re driving in a car for like a long period of time, and you’re like with a friend or something, you’re not gonna do it by yourself, and you’re not the driver, you look out the window and you have to, in order of the alphabet, find a sign on the side of the road that starts with the, um, the first letter is in the alphabet, so like, say I was looking for an ‘A,’ if I found an Applebee’s I’d yell out ‘Applebee’s’ and then, like, the next sign you saw that started with a ‘B,’ like um, Ben and Jerry’s, or something, somebody would yell it out. So it wasn’t necessarily like a competitive game, it was just like the whole car was trying to get the alphabet, or the signs in order of the alphabet before they arrived at their destination. It was just a way to stay busy . . . It’s more challenging if it’s a shorter distance, obviously. But instead of sleeping in the car, that’s what we would do.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place late one night in my apartment’s living room when I began asking her about different games she knew. When I asked the informant where she learned this game, she said, “I think from like traveling to dance competitions a lot and, um, I mean I know we didn’t just make it up, but I think it kind of derived from the license plate game, where it’s like you look at a license place and you try to find the alphabet in each license plate almost. But we made it signs, probably a little easier.” She said it was her mother who would take her to dance competitions and would sometimes participate in the game.

 

When I asked her what she thought this meant, she said, “It was a good way to bond with my other teammates and my brothers and avoid fighting because it’s not competitive.”
This game was interesting because it was one that the informant assumed everyone knew about. It was so entrenched in her childhood experience that she could not imagine anyone else growing up and not playing it. While this game most likely did not originate with the informant’s family, it is probably prevalent in families and groups of people that spend a lot of time on the road. I agree with the informant that the primary purpose behind this game is to distract children (or anyone bored on a drive) and keep them from fighting with one another. It also helps them familiarize themselves with their surroundings, take an interest in the world for a specific purpose, and practice their reading skills. It is also interesting that this game is not competitive in the usual sense, i.e. the participants are not playing against each other. This helps teach the participants to complete a task quickly and work together.

Boulder Woman

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Caucasian
Age: 50
Occupation: Small Business Owner
Residence: San Gabriel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Boulder Woman

Interviewer: When did you first hear it?

Informant- I heard it when I was first there (Camp Ta Ta Pochon) in 1982, but it goes back for years, way before my time. When they would take the kids up on a hike, there is this abandoned cabin. All that is left is this stone chimney and its made out of boulders and it looks like a chair and they would say that Boulder Woman would sit in that chair at night. Sometimes she would come down to the cabin at night and throw little rocks at the cabin and scare the kids in there.

Interviewer: So was she like a real woman or made of boulders?

Informant: She was a real woman and they would they called her Boulder Woman because she lived in some place in the mountain and she would sit in that abandoned cabin that the only thing left is the chimney. They way it was designed is it looks like a chair and its still up there.

Interviewer explains the variations she has heard

Informant– It can either be boulder man or boulder women, you can pick, that’s the thing. Boulder Man or Boulder Woman would come down at night to the cabins and scare the kids or maybe haunt them somehow. . . Just throwing rocks from up above. Not on the “wilderness” side, on the “civilization side” with the A-frame[cabins].

 

Interviewer’s notes: The legend is interesting because the origin seems to be from within the camp itself, due to the unique and specific circumstances of the remnant chimney. The multiplicity and variation has been within only a small community of people which has made for only subtle changes from person to person. Perhaps the most notable variation is whether is indeed Boulder Man or Boulder Woman, an interesting twist, perhaps influenced by feminism, which can create gender polarization. As a passive participant, the informant can only relate motifs, though not a specific narrative or origin story, which in part allows for the gender fluidity.