Moving to an entirely new city in an altogether different state or country is already difficult enough without worrying about fitting in with the locals. Just because you’re new in town doesn’t mean you want people to know that. The best way to do that is to learn how to say the names of neighborhoods, streets, and places of interest before you get here, and that’s the kind of assistance this article intends to give (we’re nice like that.)
Why It Matters
As a native Bay Stater (for anyone who didn’t memorize state nicknames in fifth grade, that’s Massachusetts), I totally empathize with not wanting to mispronounce unfamiliar place names. Just looking at a word like “Worcester” or “Gloucester” can give you an aneurism trying to figure out proper pronunciation. Nevadans, Wisconsinites, Coloradans – y’all get me too.
It’s no different in LA. Even the city’s name itself is up for debate: ask a random handful of people in the street how to correctly pronounce Los Angeles, and the only thing they’ll agree on is that this is the year the Dodgers finally end their World Series drought (spoiler alert: it’s not; it never is).
On the bright side, if you forget any of this, real Angelenos will be happy to correct you, especially if you pronounce “La Jolla” like it were a Santa Claus reference.
Won’t You Be My Nayboor?
Let’s start with Van Nuys. The first part is easy: “van,” which is what many of you will be living out of when you first arrive. Most people get tripped up on that four-letter word “nuys,” Is it nice? New-yes? Noice? Oh, please let it be noice.
The real answer is nyes as in “multiple Science Guys”, but it’s even easier if you just carry over the N and leave it at “Van Eyes.” Think “The headlights of my house look like van eyes” and you’re there.
Who Are These Jerks?
If you really want to blend in, you’ll need to know the little things. For instance, if you’re having a first date at The Broad Museum, it either rhymes with “toad” or you’re not getting a second date.
That’s right, out-of-towners, it’s pronounced broed, which sort of sounds like an aggressive frat boy attack (you got bro’ed, bro.) Why is it pronounced that way? The museum, like much of Los Angeles, is named after rich dead people – in this case Eli and Edythe Broad, who you just know had the worst time with substitute teachers.
Same goes with Edward Laurence Doheny (three syllables, do-HEE-nee), who has his name on everything from streets to a beach to the Library at USC. Money can buy you a lot, and this guy seems to have spent some of it on vowels.
Can’t Get They-ah from He-ah
Getting out on the town is important for a new arrival, but asking for directions to these places will also be easier if the local you ask isn’t giving you side-eye (much worse than van-eye). Grab a coffee in the NoHo Arts district on Lankershim–not-sham Blvd. Head down to Miracle Mile and you will surely enjoy the sights on Wilshire Blvd. Spend a day shopping on Rodeo Drive before you take a peek at the clubs on Pico at night.
Bonus: I just gave you pronunciation guidance and a pretty great Saturday gameplan all at the same time. Enjoy!
¿Que Habla Español?
Then there are all the Spanish-language . While being bilingual is helpful, it isn’t necessary as long as you stick to a few basic rules:
- Cahuenga looks like it sounds (ca-HUEN-ga), but Tujunga is almost like the next-level version of that (ta-HUN-ga). Remember that in Spanish the “j” is often an “h” sound – forget and all your friends will be like jajajajajajajaja #spanishhumor
- Unless the word is llama, two “l”s together is pronounced like a “y.” Use this rule plus the rule above to make La Jolla rhyme with Goya. Boxing enthusiasts, think “Oscar de La Jolla” and you’ll get it.
- Sometimes you can just throw the Spanish influence out the window – I had to practice in front of the mirror before I could pronounce Los Feliz correctly (FEE-lus, because who needs consistency?)
No one is expecting you to get this perfect in your first month or even your first year. But if you don’t want to stick out like the transplant that you are, speaking the language will go a long way to helping you fit in. Next time: SoCal slang, or why being “gnarly” is a good thing (unless it’s really, really bad).