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Valley Girls and Surfer Dudes. Slang in the 1980s.

Hey everybody, Rick here with a bit of an additional look at the colorful dialogue of the 1980s.  When I got berated by Cole and Catherine about the word "Dudeical" and their vehement stance on the word not existing, it got me thinking that perhaps not everyone had heard some of the words that I grew up knowing in my particular neck of the woods.   

A Righteous Intro...

Much like the rock bands of the 1980s getting their start on the Sunset Strip in Southern California, the popular dialogue choices of the 1980s got their start in SoCal as well.   I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which is a suburb of Los Angeles.  The Valley, as we call it, was the birthplace for a lot of the sociolect (social dialect) that became popular during this time.  Specifically, from two significant aspects of California popular culture that were on a significant increase in this area during the 1980s: Valley Girls and Surfers.   Both were in tremendous abundance during this time, particularly in Southern California. As a result of both their popularity and the mass media at the time, the vernacular and behavior from both cultures grew to a national level.

Like, Totally a Valley Girl.

A Valley Girl is a sterotype of sorts, best identified by white middle-class and upper middle-class girls who originate from the San Fernando Valley.  Given that the Valley is quite literally over the hill from Hollywood, and Beverly Hills for that matter, the stereotype became further solidified.   After hitting the mainstream in 1982, the behavior of the "Valley Girl" spread like wildfire and further evolved into a caricature of young women who were essentially depicted as spoiled airheads who were more concerned about shopping and their personal appearances over school and other activities that would allow them to better themselves.

"Valleyspeak" was found to be in heavy use throughout the 80s in both TV and film.  Films like Valley Girl, Heathers, both Bill and Ted films used this particular dialect for many of their characters.  TV characters that use "Valleyspeak" to this day include Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, Michaelangelo from TMNT, and Snake from the Simpsons.

The first instance of a Valley Girl was Lilly Tomlin's portrayal of her character Suzie Sorority from Tomlin's TV special in 1975.   Another early instance of Valleyspeak goes as far back as 1976, where in an episode of Saturday Night Live, Laraine Newman portrayed a Valley Girl in a therapy session that included Marlon Brando as portrayed by Jim Belushi.  However, the wider circulation occurred in 1982 with Frank Zappa and his song "Valley Girl", which featured his daughter delivering a monologue in Valley Speak over the music. Phrases like "grody to the max" got mainstream exposure.  However, phrases like "tubular" and "gnarly" were surfer terms that were entered into the Valley Girl vernacular as a result  of this song.  

Surf's Up!

While Valleyspeak adopted aspects of the surfer lingo, things did not go the other way.  You would never hear surfers using phrases like "grody to the max" or "gag me with a spoon."  Matter of fact, surfer lingo had a life entirely of  its own.  Surfer culture, the laid back lifestyle, and the colorful dialogue actually goes back farther than the 1970s.  The 1950s  and 1960s saw a major growth in surfer culture in California, Hawaii, and even Australia; partially due to the music of the Beach Boys and Dick Dale with songs like "Surfin' Safari" and "Misrilou" respectively.  Needless to say, surf music continues to have an influence even today as Quentin Tarantino used not one, but  two of Dick Dale's instrumental pieces in his second film, "Pulp Fiction."  However, surfer culture tends to be a bit exaggerated when depicted on film and television.  A major guilty party in this case is the film "Point Break."

Growing up in Southern California, growing up with the surfer dialect was commonplace for me.  You might say that I speak three languages, English, Spanish, and Surfer.  This is NOT to say that I surf.  Far from it.  My coordination is hardly surfer material.  However that said, I did pick up the dialect with little effort and even now, in in my 30s, I still let some of it slip from time to time.   Words like "epic," "awesome," "dude," and bro (or it's lazier form of "brah") are part of my everyday lexicon.   Other words like "tubular," "radical," and yes, "dudeical." have (mercifully) gone the way of Doc Martens, leggings, and parachute pants as fashion trends; unless it is in jest...

Because Southern California is a veritable melting pot of sorts with different cultures, it's only natural that one will pick up someone's accent or slang with minimal effort.  I dare anyone to spend a week in the San Fernando Valley and not pick up at least a little bit of slang from the area.

The Internet is NOT just for porn!  There is a vast supply of information throughout the World Wide Web, particularly about the unique Valley Girl and Surfer cultures.  Here is one of many totally awesome sites that I am talking about.   Thanks for reading!  Stay geeky!  


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