While you might not quite call it an accent in a traditional sense,there is no denying the distinct sound of a SoCal native’s speech. There’s the matter of when to say ‘the,’ for one thing, and perhaps that more plodding cadence that so often comes with the laid-back Cali vibe. However, the true mark that you’re talking to a local might just be those particular little words and turns of phrase that people outside of LA just don’t really understand—or only understand because we’ve made them popular—and now we have a linguist-vetted list of what a few of those words might be.
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Library Foundation launched a project called “Hollywood is a Verb” and put out a call to the public to suggest words and phrases they found particularly indicative of our regional argot. From that crowd-sourced list, the experts compiled a list they call the SoCal Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary.
As USC linguist Edward Finegan told the LA Times in a recent interview about the project, the California-originated words range from the mainstream (like motel, a product of our mid-century car culture, or Chicana, which had never appeared in print before being published in the LA Times) to the super-local expressions that have never made the jump into usage outside this area like SigAlert (a phrase named for one Loyd Sigmon, not derived from ‘signal’ as many people even here assume).
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