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San Diego Slang: 13 Words That'll Help You Talk Like a Local

San Diego Slang: 13 Words That'll Help You Talk Like a Local

If you want pointers on how to talk the talk when you’re in the city, consider adding these San Diego slang terms to your vocabulary.


4 min read

July 06, 2021

It’s a common stereotype that Californians speak like they’re from another planet—they don’t. But that doesn’t mean that the Golden State’s cities don’t have their own set of slang words that only locals know and use. Want to blend in with the San Diegans next time you go adventuring there? These are the terms and phrases that you need to know to sound like a local. 

Once you start digging into the terminology, you’ll quickly notice that the regional dialect is a mixture of words from all over—it won’t take you long to master the slang. Due to social media and integration, region-specific slang has become very rare. However, there are terms in San Diego slang that you won’t find used in many other places. So, if you want pointers on how to talk the talk when you’re in the city, consider adding these San Diego slang terms to your vocabulary for a smooth start.

The San Diego Slang Terms to Know Now

Using the word "dude" is so common, there's a whole movie about the slang term. Just watch Dude, Where's My Car? starring Ashton Kutcher.

1. Dude

“Dude” is a slang term used all over California and beyond. With a heavy tie to surfer culture, there’s no denying that this word is hella SoCal (no need for a NorCal vs. SoCal situation, we’re all friends here). Use “dude” as a gender neutral term of endearment in a similar manner to “man” or “bro” and to substitute words like “hey” or “no way.” 

Example: “Dude, can you believe we’ve been friends for five years?” “Dude…”

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2. PB, OB, and more

If you say P.B. and people don’t automatically assume you’re talking about peanut butter, then you’re definitely in San Diego. There are certain abbreviations referring to specific places in San Diego slang that foreigners wouldn’t immediately guess. For example, P.B. is Pacific Beach, O.B. is Ocean Beach, and so on and so forth.

Example: “I personally prefer P.B. over O.B.” “Yeah you seem like a P.B. person.”

If you’re thinking of coming to sunny San Diego to study, you should probably remember that locals are practically a different breed of humans.

3. Daygo

“Daygo” is a slang term for San Diego. Although it may be applied to any location in San Diego, inner city areas are most often linked to it.

Example: “When was the last time you went to Daygo?” “Been too long, dude.”

4. Pero Like

Since San Diego has a significant Spanish-speaking population, a lot of Spanglish terms have made their way into San Diego slang. One of them is “pero like.” This phrase translates to “but like” and is used the same way too.

Example: “I want to have people over on Friday for a party, pero like my parents will freak out if they found out.”

When you decide to come to San Diego, remember to take it easy, relax, and embrace the beauty of the culture.

5. Santa Anas

There is no connection between the San Diego colloquial phrase "Santa Anas" and the Orange County city. The origin of the term is up to question—some say it comes from the Native American word “Santana” which translates to “devil wind,” but that’s definitely up to debate.

Example: “Dude I feel the Santa Anas coming in soon and I already hate it.”

6. TJ

Tijuana is just 20 miles away from San Diego and a popular vacation spot for many locals. However, not many people outside of Southern California refer to Tijuana as “TJ.”

Example: “Have you ever been to TJ?” “Not yet, but I can’t wait to go, bro.”

7. Chulajuana

The San Diego slang “Chulajuana” is an amalgamation of the words Tijuana and Chula Vista. It’s used to refer to the geographic region of the U.S.-Mexican border. However, it’s important to know that Chulajuana is not an actual place and shouldn’t substitute the actual name of Chula Vista, as some residents might consider it offensive.

Example: “Does Chulajuana exist?” “Not really.”

A "hodad" is a non-surfer who frequents surfing beaches and pretends to be a surfer. Yeah, you probably know a bunch of hodads.

8. Hodad

A “hodad” is a person who hangs out at the beach but isn’t a surfer. This long-standing San Diego colloquialism originally described a counterculture that was diametrically opposed to that of the surfer men.

Example: “Look at that guy wearing socks to the beach, what a hodad.” 

9. Kook

Slightly similar to “hodad” but more derogatory in nature, a “kook” is a person who pretends to be a surfer or skateboarder when they’re clearly not. “Kook” isn’t exclusively San Diego lingo; it’s also used throughout other cities in Southern California.

Example: “That guy has literally been walking around with a surfboard the whole day and he never actually got into the water.” “Textbook kook behavior, am I right?”

If you’re planning a trip to Southern California then there’s no way you’ll want to visit the state without learning a few slang words first.

10. Zonie

“Zonie” is used to describe the crowds of Arizonians that come to spend their summers in Southern California. Because "zonies" and the "zonie factor" are often mentioned in newspapers and discussions, it's a good idea to be familiar with this San Diego slang term. However, the term is considered to be offensive and shouldn’t actually be used to refer to people.

Example: “What’s up with this traffic?” “It’s the zonies coming into town.” “Dude, don’t say that, not cool.” 

11. Clutch

“Clutch” is used to describe something that ends up being exactly what you need, when you need it. In other words, this SoCal slang refers to something coming in handy, especially when it happens unexpectedly.

Example: “I can’t believe I forgot my hat at home, it’s so sunny and I might have a heat stroke.” “I have one in my car!” “Thanks dude, you came in clutch.” 

Scooping money in poker is one example of where the term "scoop" is used to describe stealing something unexpectedly from an opponent.

12. Scoop

To scoop in and get something is to steal it away. Used interchangeably with another slang term “swoop,” “scoop” can also be used to describe picking someone or something up.

Example: “Are you going to the party?” “Yeah. Want me to scoop you along the way?” “Yes, please. You came in clutch, I really needed a ride.”

13. Come Up

This is another slang term that’s used not just in San Diego but in all of California. “Come up” describes something of value or a great opportunity that comes unexpectedly. When you wish to express that something has turned out well, you may also use this slang term from San Diego.

Example: “I thought the sneakers on sale were a come up, but they ended up being fake.” 

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