Tag Archives: Southern California

The Char Man

“The Char Man is kind of an Ojai legend….he’s like this monster, this burned guy. He lives out by the campgrounds on Creek Road and if you get too close to the side of the road on the wrong night he gets you. I think he takes your skin or something? We talked about the Char Man a lot in middle school. People used to go out to the woods at night, like boys who thought they were gonna fight him. I don’t think he’s real, but its definitely kind of creepy.”

This legend was collected in Ojai, California. The region is rife with wildfires and forest fires, and is likely an expression of collective grief and fear of these natural disasters.

Southern California Slang: “Hesh”

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

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

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

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.