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Get Stoked On English: SoCal Slang!

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Some pretty sweet waves in La Jolla, CA!
Some pretty sweet waves in La Jolla, CA!

The surf culture of Southern California is one of the most famous and iconic cultures in the world. Since the 1960s “SoCal” culture has combined easy-going, down-to-earth West Coast trends with Hollywood glamour, putting California culture in the global spotlight of “cool”.

EC San Diego is located in the heart of this cool and chic culture – San Diego is laid-back and a fast-paced metropolitan area rolled into one. For students learning English, it is the perfect place to absorb American trends, culture, and language – all while steps away from one of the world’s best beaches and surf spots!

A huge part of  “SoCal” culture that is extremely popular on national and international levels is its slang. The term “slang” refers to words, sayings, and/or dialects created and used in certain geographical and societal settings.  California English slang is a subset of American English that is very informal and very common in Southern California coastal towns. SoCal slang wasn’t just formed out of movies & TV – it is the language of everyday life in San Diego.

Here are definitions & examples of some of the most common, and most iconic, slang words in SoCal culture:

  • “Gnarly” (adj.):  used to describe something extreme; can be used in positive or negative situations:
    • “Wow, that was a gnarly move!”
    • “This traffic is gnarly. We’re barely moving!”
  • “Chill” (adj.): 1) easygoing or cool, 2) “it’s okay, not a big deal” and 3) (Verb) to relax and hang out:
    • 1 – Mary: “Is your job super stressful?” –>David: “Nah, it’s pretty chill most days.”
    • 2 – Mary: “I’m so sorry! I think I scratched your car!” –>David: “It’s chill. That mark has always been there.”
    • 3- Mary: “Wanna see that movie tonight?”–> David: “Nah, I kinda want to chill at home.”
  • “Sweet” (adj.): awesome, cool
    • “I just won a brand new Tesla?! Sweet!”


  • “Brah” (n.):  slang within a slang term, “bro”, a shortening of “brother”. “Brah” actually originated from the Hawaiian word “braddah”, a common word from island pidgin (English-Hawaiian) used as a term of affection.
  • “Dude” (n.): slang term for an individual (mostly men but can encompass all genders), common and very casual.
    • “Dude! Where’s my car?!?”
  • “Stoked” (adj.): to be extremely excited or enthusiastic about something
    • “I’m so stoked for our snowboarding trip next weekend!”
  • “Bail” (v.):  to leave a place (NOT monetary payment for prison release – though conceptually the meanings are similar)
    • “This party is boring. Let’s bail.”

At EC San Diego, students can learn English from teachers who grew up living the SoCal life, and practice English language skills outside of school with other San Diego natives. ECSD provides opportunities for students to learn English while actively participating in the everyday life of a SoCal beach town.

ECSD’s ESL programs are academic, cultural and above all, unforgettable learning experiences for every student – so get stoked on learning English in San Diego!

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