Dear Babe,

I moved to SF not long ago and have started dating a guy who grew up here. He’s nice and he seems pretty smart but he keeps using the word “dude”. It makes him sound so stupid, and really, how could anyone who uses that word not be stupid? What gives?

Disgusted by Dude

Dear Disgusted by Dude,

The word “dude” is a horrible shame that penetrates the language of all who grow up in California. As a kid you are determined to never use that stupid word but then, somewhere in high school usually, you start using it as a joke, to make fun of the dorks who really use it. And then you are lost. It sticks and you can never get rid of it. I actively hated the word “dude” but joking around with it my junior year ruined me and now I call my husband “dude” pretty much everyday.

Sometimes I think the word “dude” was planted in our language by the conservative branch of our government. You see, they’re generally anti-California, and littering our speech with the word “dude” makes us easy to recognize.

I’m not saying your guy is not stupid. All I’m saying is that he’s from California and the word “dude” alone cannot be used as an indicator of anything other than his origin. It’s going to take time and patience to find out if he’s stupid. During which time you risk the chance of picking up the use of the world “dude”.

Be careful and never let down your guard.


Nagging questions holding you back? Babe Scanlon’s got your answer. A SF native, she’s been figuring this place out far longer than she cares to admit, and now she’s ready to share. Email her at and let the veil of confusion lift. Please do keep in mind: Babe Scanlon is not presenting herself as an expert in anything that means you can sue her or the Appeal if you take her advice and your life tanks. Her recommendations are just that: recommendations.

the author

Babe Scanlon is a writer living and working in San Francisco. She's worked as an archaeologist, computer game designer, agent at Agent Provocateur and hypnotherapist. She is controlling your mind at this very moment.

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  • Eve Batey

    The same thing happened to me! Ironic use was my “dude” gateway drug. Now I use it constantly. I am from Indiana! It’s just embarrassing.

  • Jason Bentley

    “Dude” is now a part of the California vernacular, in the way that “y’all” is part of the Southern vernacular. And like “y’all”, it only sounds rubesque to white people who are either a) not from the West, b) care way too much about what others think they sound like, or c) want all men to talk like Mr. Darcy or Count Valmont.

    Now let’s talk about “hella.”

  • sfboogie

    For me it was hella. Ten years ago I groaned a very loud Midwestern groan every time this “word” was uttered around me. Then I started using it in jest. Now I catch myself saying it without even thinking. Immediate regret is felt and I try to play it off, but I’m stuck. Saying soda rather than pop made me cringe too, but now pop sounds ridiculous and childish.

  • moore

    Well I think it depends *where* in California you are from. We are a big state! I like totally use hella thou.

  • tonganet

    The like…term that I like…think is destroying like…ya know…conversation…and like…language and stuff is like…using the word ‘like’ for like…everything, so people end up sounding like…stupid and whatever. It’s like…I don’t know…poor grammar or whatever and it’s like…really like…’tedious’ or whatever to like use this word ‘like’ in like every sentence like 20 times or whatever. Like ‘dude’ is only used like twice max in a sentence…I don’t know if that’s like important or whatever, I just thought I’d like…clue you into like another term that like…pissing people off or whatever.

  • Eve Batey

    I aspire to “hella” use, verbally (I think I use it OK in writing)! I cannot pull it off, and when I try I seem terribly mutton dressed as lamb.

  • sfresident

    I can deal with the casual use of “dude.” What I can not deal with is the use of the word “bro.” In any form. No matter if it’s causal, ironic, unintentional, or part of crafted prose. Anybody who uses the word is instantly dumped into the “douchebag” pile.

  • Cranky Old Mission Guy

    I grew up in California and never use “dude” except when mocking someone who uses it first, and never use “hella” or “bro” at all. For that matter, “babe” has a very limited range of functionality in my vocabulary. The difference is in how old you are. For people of a certain age (mine), “man” and “far out” and “groovy” started out as ironic usages and later became common usage — words like “bitchen” and “boss” is where we started out. Which is probably why you don’t know this already — if you heard me talking, you’d recoil in horror from the ‘creepy old fart’, and blank the memory of hearing me from your mind.

    It is to LOL 😉

  • Greg Dewar

    dear disgusted by dude:

    dude, wtf?

    CA Native

    PS: you can always move to Portland.

  • generic

    What Greg said.

  • cv

    Dear Disgusted By Dude,

    You haven’t been here long enough. Give it a year or two and you will be using “dude” all the time, right around the same time you go visit your relatives in Sheboygan for Christmas and forget to bring anything heavier than a light jacket.

    Trust me, as a native Californian, I see it all the time.


    Another CA Native