Friday, August 18, 2006

California Semantics: A Plea for Linguistic Specificity

Whenever you move to a new city (or a new area of the country), part of the adjustment is learning the vocabulary of everyday life in that region. I've been a resident of California for almost a month now, and I'm starting to notice the words and names that will be necessary for me to function here (although I haven't yet managed to employ most of them convincingly).

Here are several examples of Santa Cruz words that are used rarely in other places I've lived:

  • pelagic: Of, relating to, or living in open oceans or seas rather than waters adjacent to land or inland waters (as in birds). You don't have to be a birder to run across this adjective in regular reading here on the coast.
  • tri-tip: A beef tri-tip roast is a boneless cut of meat from the bottom sirloin. It also is called "triangular" roast because of its shape. According to the Oregon Beef Council: "this flavorful beef cut has been one of the beef industry's best kept secrets."
  • freeway: It turns out that the "freeway" is actually just a... highway!

And, of course, as I live only a mile or so from Pleasure Point, I am having to adjust to surfing terms as well. This is particularly difficult, since I still don't understand what a "Point Break" is (but it does make me think of Keanu, so that's not too bad).

But then there are two terms that are causing me some problems: "The Valley" and "The Bay Area."
  • The Valley: I have heard this used to refer to 1. the Central (i.e. San Joaquin) Valley (home of Sacramento, Fresno, grody things) and 2. Silicon Valley (just over the mountain from Santa Cruz--containing San Jose among other things).
  • The Bay Area: I always thought this meant 1. The San Francisco Bay Area (homosexual paradise!), but I have recently heard it used in Santa Cruz to mean 2. The Monterey Bay Area (sea lion paradise!).

I have a hard time with this kind of vagueness, especially since I am still too new to the area to fully appreciate the context clues (e.g., which "Valley" is Milpitas in?).

Could we agree on a solution? What if we called the Monterey Bay Area the "MoBay"? And what if we called Silicon Valley, well, "Silicon Valley"? Can we do this, people? Please?

No comments: