Seattle Slang

In this episode, Cami S. talks about Seattle culture, slang, lifestyle, and fashion. She brings so much insight into the way language and culture mesh in Washington.  In the episode, Cami shows us how Seattle weather is related to the language and fashion trends. Also, she mentions the varied terms that Seattle residents use to describe the rain, which reminded me of anthropological linguistics.  She also mentions the personality of the city and how that manifests in the way people act and interact.  Finally, Cami also shows us how the music scene shapes all aspects of life in Seattle.

If you want to find Cami, here is her website:

her instagram handle is: @camistheenglishcoach

and her Youtube channel is:


The transcript of this episode can be found below: 

Anne: Today I have an amazing guest on the podcast, Cami, who’s been teaching English for over ten years, and she specializes in pronunciation and in fluency, and she also does writing correction and TOEFL exam preparation classes. And I think she also helps people with daily English everyday conversations as well. And also I’ve seen a lot of grammar stuff that you do as well. So that’s really nice. And today, want to talk to Cami a little bit about her city, where this place she was born in the United States, and a little bit about the slang that you might hear in Washington, perhaps a little bit about the language and how language and culture and how they’re related in your place and your city. So tell us a little welcome. First of all, thanks for coming. Thank you.

Cami: Thanks for having me.

Anne: And I know that you were born in Washington, right? The state of Washington.

Cami: Yes, mhm exactly. So in Washington State, um, I always have to specify that because when people hear Washington, they think, DC.

Anne: DC.

Cami: No, Washington State, other side of the country. But yeah, I was born and raised in Washington State, really close to the biggest city, Seattle. Um, I left, um, and I moved to South Korea after graduating university, and I’m currently living in Texas. Most of my life was in Washington State.

Anne: Fantastic. That’s such m an adventure to travel to South Korea and teach English and what a great cultural experience. And I’m sure you realized a lot about your US upbringing and the US culture when you were living abroad, more than you probably noticed when you were living in the US.

Cami: Yeah, um, and I didn’t know that I had an accent or anything. So, uh, in the Northwest, especially in the Seattle area, we have the idea that we don’t have an accent. We have the most perfect or neutral English. And when I moved to South Korea and was around a lot more expats, people were able to be like, you’re from Seattle, aren’t you?

Anne: They can identify it. Yeah.

Cami: And I was so shocked that they could tell that I was from Seattle because I thought, no, we don’t have an accent.

Anne: Um, was there something you were saying that was giving it away or it was just your tone, your accent?

Cami: I think it could have been just general characteristics, how to behave. And there are some things that maybe are unique to Seattle, like the pronunciation of somewhere is important. Um, I’ve kind of heard that here in the south as well, so I don’t know if it’s that unique. Um, or it could be the neutralness ah of my accent that people can notice because I don’t have a Southern accent. I don’t sound like I’m from the east coast or California. So maybe it is a little bit unique in a way.

Anne: So how do you pronounce important? That’s different.

Cami: Important.

Anne: You just say important slightly different. Then um, maybe you would hear in.

Cami: The I don’t know if it’s that different. How do you say important?

Anne: I say important.

Cami: So you do the t more at the end? Yeah, I don’t do the T. And actually, my husband, if he can hear some of my students, he can tell which students I’ve had for a long time, um, because of how they pronounce important.

Anne: You train that with them a lot. You train them. It has to be the Seattle style of importance.

Cami: Well, they naturally kind of pick it up, and I think that’s what they hear. It’s one of the first, um, things that they’ll pick up that’s more unique to how I speak compared to what a textbook says or what they’ve heard from some other teachers.

Anne: That’s true. Because some people may be saying it more with a D. Sound, like important.

Cami: Yeah, I just kind of dropped the T. I tell them it’s like a karate chop. So, like, you’re important.

Anne: I like the way that sounds.

Cami: Sort of my teaching method for those things. It’s the karate chop.

Anne: Yeah. Mhm. So what do you think is unique about Washington that you might I don’t know. I know there’s near Seattle, there’s a famous mountain that everybody hikes.

Cami: Mount Rainier.

Anne: Yeah. Mount Rainier.

Cami: There’s mountains on both sides of Seattle.

Anne: Yeah.

Cami: Um, there is actually a term, um, so Seattle is very rainy, it’s always cloudy, and instead of us saying it’s a sunny day or wow, the weather is so nice, we use the phrase the mountains are out. So that means there aren’t any clouds. So you can see the mountains that are on both sides of Seattle. Um, and especially Mount Rainier, which is a big volcano, which honestly kind of scares me. But there’s a large volcano. If you ever see a picture of Seattle, it’s usually the Space Needle plus Mount Rainier in the background.

Anne: Oh, that’s fantastic. So it’s like a weather slaying from Seattle. The mountains are out. Yeah, the mountains are out. It’s really beautiful. It’s so nature related, too, right?

Cami: Yeah. And, um, it’s just because it’s so rainy and gray. So, um, there are some things kind of related to that. Other weird cultural things. Don’t really use umbrellas in Seattle because it just yeah, you can spot someone who’s not a native Washington person if they’re not using an umbrella. Now, of course, if you have a certain outfit on or if you’re trying to keep your hair styled a certain way, might use an umbrella. But most people from Seattle just use a raincoat and a hood.

Anne: Really? Is that kind of to look cool and fit in?

Cami: I feel like in Seattle, the fashion and kind of the behavior, it’s very functional. And I know for me, carrying an umbrella around is not functional, or, uh, especially walking into a store. Then you have your wet umbrella. It gets the floor wet, it makes it slippery, and it’s just a hassle to carry it around. It’s so much more convenient to just wear a raincoat and put your hood on.

Anne: That’s fascinating. I love that. It’s really interesting just because I live in rainy Galicia in Spain, and we have umbrella culture. Like an umbrella culture. Like if you go to the local library, they have umbrella holders that you can pay to lock your umbrella up while you’re at the library. And I’ve never seen that anywhere else in the world. And then umbrella holders in front of every single restaurant so that while you’re in the restaurant, you have a place to put your umbrella. It’s just like an umbrella culture here. Yeah.

Cami: Same in Korea. They have like special bags that you put your umbrella in, um, which is.

Anne: Super… eco… terrible for the environment. Right.

Cami: Umbrella condoms. Um, yeah, definitely not eco-friendly. And I think that could be another thing in Seattle because they’re very eco conscious. So you don’t see very much as much Reusable or, uh, non Reusable plastics. Definitely no bags for your umbrellas because we would go through them so quickly because it rains all the time in Seattle. But also when it rains, it isn’t that kind of heavy rain. Mhm very often it can happen. It’s usually, um, a bit of a drizzle. We have so many different names for rain in Seattle. You know how like, the innuets have no.

Anne: I remember studying that in the anthropology class and the linguistics of culture. Yes. So there’s lots of different names for rain in Seattle. Like drizzle.

Cami: They were very specific. Misty, drizzle, downpour, and one that showers, that’s another one sprinkles, and one that, um I’m not sure if it’s as common, but I know some people say “spitty.”

Anne: Interesting. “Spitty,” like you’re spitting.

Cami: Yeah, it’s just a little bit of rain. So also, that’s why we wear hoods, because when it’s misty or just bitty rain or a sprinkle, you don’t really need an umbrella. It’s just kind of a faf to carry it around.

Anne: And are the colors important, do you think a lot of people in Seattle wear blacks and grays and dark greens?

Cami: Yeah, I would say a lot of people wear darker colors. M um, but there are two main universities in Washington state, um, WSU or Wazoo. It’s on the east side of the State. That’s actually where I went to school. And the colors are crimson or like a dark red and gray in Seattle university is the University of Washington or UW, and it’s purple and gold. And so a lot of people will wear it’s kind of more casual in Seattle, but they’ll wear their school colors or whatever school they’re really proud of. So you’ll see that, um, are there.

Anne: Some rivalries between those two universities at all?

Cami: Yes, really big rivalries. During the big rivalry football game every year, um, I used to work with the marching band for the university and I had to be kind of act as a bodyguard or security for the marching band members when they went to the bathroom because they had been attacked. Are, um, you serious? The rivalry can be really violently attacked.

Anne: Really?

Cami: Yes. But it’s funny because I’m very short. I’m a very small person. I don’t think my face is that intimidating. But for the girls, I had to stand in front of their stall and keep them safe. If there was a guy going to the bathroom, obviously I couldn’t go in, but I had to stand at the entrance of the bathroom and yell in.

Anne: Hey, Mark, you’re good?

Cami: Are you still there? I was told that I had to do that. It just kind of marching band members safe.

Anne: Yes. Wow. Really weird.

Cami: Yeah. Um, but yeah, dark colors. The grunge scene started in Seattle, so you do see a lot of plaid, like oversized clothing. So, like, what I’m wearing right now is pretty typical Seattle fashion. Um, when I lived there for a.

Anne: Couple of months, a lot of people had tattoos. And I don’t know if it was a big tattoo culture, like, everybody I saw in Seattle had tattoos. I was amazed. Yeah.

Cami: Because it’s a more, I would say almost kind of rock and roll, alternative grunge kind of style thing. So very liberal. A lot less, um, judgment about tattoos. But ah, I know, like, with plaid, I’m very specific, especially now that I’m in Texas. Um, there is a fine line between grunge nirvana kind of plaid and farmer plaid. And that’s something.

Anne: You can distinguish farmer plaid from grunge plaid people.

Cami: Yes. Also, like, the fit or shape of the shirt, it has to be a certain kind of oversized for it to be Seattle grunge plaid, like a grunge flannel. And then there’s a certain fit that people wear here in Texas. So here people are like, you’re not from Texas, are you? Without me saying anything, they just look.

Anne: Just by the plaid, you’re wearing the.

Cami: Kind of grunge, um, kind of like how I wear it. How I wear it?

Anne: Yeah.

Cami: Like the fits and everything. Uh, for oversized, I love wearing it with beanie, and I m just want.

Anne: To look like, uh, the beanie look. It is huge in Seattle. Yeah, I remember that exactly.

Cami: Yeah. I would love to wear a beanie every day of the year, but I’m in Texas. It’s really hot. We can’t wear beanies often.

Anne: Do you think there’s any particular words you would hear in Seattle or I don’t know if there’s any particular slang.

Cami: Um, so, I mean, the phrase the mountains are out, all the different ways to talk about rain.

Anne: Rain?

Cami: Um, yes. Older people, it’s not really slang, but old people that are native to Washington, they pronounce the word wash in a different way, and it’s only wash. So whether it’s Washington or washcloth or whatever, they will say wash. Yeah, wash. Um, and then they from Washington. But that’s only old people. Um, another one that I think is interesting, um, at the deli you can get these potato, um, wedges. It’s a kind of fried potato wedge.

Anne: Mhm.

Cami: Everywhere else they’re called potato wedges or home fries.

Anne: Yeah, I’ve heard home fries before.

Cami: Yeah, they’re Joe Joes.

Anne: Joe Joes? Really?

Cami: Joe Joes? Yeah, the sign won’t say JoJos. It might say like, uh, home fries or something else, but everyone just calls them JoJos.

Anne: Wow, interesting. A good food word for Seattle.

Cami: Yeah, I like the name Joe Joes. I think it’s cute.

Anne: Because I don’t think you would hear that in any other place in the country, probably.

Cami: Yeah, exactly. So there’s JoJos one word, just because I’m obviously used to the vocabulary from Seattle. I was looking at a list and I saw that Prefunk is not annoying. Have you heard of pre funk before funk?

Anne: No. I mean, I’ve heard of funk, but not pre funk.

Cami: Right. So, um, in other places this is often, like, before a party. Uh, maybe other people say pregame.

Anne: Yeah.

Cami: You have some drinks before you go to a party or before you go.

Anne: To in Iowa we call this tailgating. I don’t know if you would call that as well. Tailgating.

Cami: In Washington we would use tailgating as ah, a more specific term.

Anne: Okay. Before the football game. Yeah.

Cami: Like you’re actually at the tailgate and that whole kind of party thing with a large group of people. Um, yeah, pregaming can be used or pre funk is usually used when you drink at home before going to a party, um, or before going to a bar. Because alcohol is expensive, it’s cheaper to have it at home. Maybe some friends or maybe even by yourself, you have a beard. Take some shots before you go out so that you can save some money.

Anne: Um wow, really fun. That’s a really funky so would you say, like, let’s do a little pre funk? Would it be doing pre funk or just let’s enjoy the pre funk.

Cami: Let’s have a pre funk. So it could be a, uh, noun or a verb. So let pre funk at my house or come over for a pre funk before the party.

Anne: Yeah, the weekend is nearly here, so I know we already need to put a little pre funk on the weekend calendar, right?

Cami: Yeah. Or pre funk for the weekend. Some people might say that, like, um, if you’re having some drinks on a Thursday or something, I’m pre funking for the weekend, but it’s more common to use it as the time to drink before going to a party or before going to the bar to save money or reduce the social anxiety before going. Um, and then along the lines of that, of, um, drinking things. Most of my time was as a teen or also at my university, it was the party school. Like, Wazu is known for being a party school. So that’s where this comes from. Um, I didn’t realize that a rack of beer is not a term.

Anne: You know what a case of beer? I think a case of beer, right.

Cami: A rack of beer is a 24 case of beer. Or maybe people say a 24 rack of beer or just a rack of beer means big box of 24K. Uh.

Anne: We need to add this to our English lessons. We do like lessons on containers. And now we’re going to have to add for beer the rack of beer.

Cami: Yeah, exactly. A, um, lot of my students are college students or wanting to go to university and, uh what, uh, should I say?

Anne: Prefa.

Cami: Those kinds of things and yeah, also, like the word filthy. I don’t think it’s used as much, but filthy meaning, like, cool.

Anne: Yeah, that is filthy. Um, it means really good. Like a really good quality. Right?

Cami: Yeah. Um, kind of like sick quality. Yeah, like sick or like, bad.

Anne: Like using a negative word to have a positive meaning. Right, right. Yeah. Um, but it kind of comes from that grunge culture. Right. That filthy grunt the grunge, maybe kind of filthy grunge.

Cami: There is also, like, a hip hop and rap scene in Seattle, so I think it more so comes from the hip hop and rap scene. So, like, McLemore, he’s a rapper, um, and pretty famous, and he uses filthy a lot, but he was not the one to start using the word filthy. Uh, yeah, it’s just different from here in Texas, for sure.

Anne: I know Texas is such a Southern state that I’m sure it has kind of a world of its own in terms of language and accent and the Southern accent. Mhm, I wanted to ask you about y’all just because in every episode, everyone has an opinion about y’all and I want to kind of know what you say. Do you use Y’all or do you still use you guys?

Cami: Um, so I, like, using y’all one. Um, I feel like it just sounds very friendly to say y’all. Um, and then also, it’s gender inclusive.

Anne: Yeah.

Cami: So, um, I think even though it is more of a Southern thing, so some people on the West Coast or East Coast, that’s not from my culture or from my region. It’s definitely not a Seattle thing. I do like that it is completely gender inclusive, identity inclusive. It works for everyone. Um, and so that’s why I incorporate you all into my vocabulary, just because it’s nondiscriminatory to everybody.

Anne: Yeah, I like it too. And I like the way it sounds, um, as well.

Cami: Yeah, it sounds sweet. Uh, I think here in the south, people are definitely friendlier. Well, there are some things that are not as friendly, but in general, Southern hospitality. Yeah. A little more warm. And so when I hear Y’all, it kind of gives that, uh, hospitality sort of feeling, that Southern charm. Um, in Seattle, not the warmest.

Anne: That’s true. Yeah. I noticed that when I was living there, people weren’t exactly warm.

Cami: Right. Yeah. Polite little standoff fish.

Anne: Maybe a little serious. I’m not sure.

Cami: Yeah. Um, and I’ve read that it has to do with, like, the weather. Like, people don’t want to go outside. Uh, um, it’s easier to or less intimidating to hang out with someone outside at a park or somewhere else, but because the weather, you’re kind of limited and you don’t really want to invite someone into your house as much. And like, here in Texas, uh, everyone’s like, come to my church. But Seattle isn’t as religious. There’s not that kind of culture.

Anne: I’ve never heard that before. Come to my church. It is very southern, this idea of, like, come to my church. Yeah.

Cami: When I had my internet installed, the cable guy was like, hey, you should come to my church this weekend.

Anne: You’re getting all these church invites.

Cami: I don’t know.

Anne: Visit some churches, get to know the community. Kind of a different world in that respect.

Cami: And mhm, I never noticed it, but after being in Texas and then going back home, now I can notice that, uh, Seattle free.

Anne: Yeah.

Cami: I do kind of prefer having my space. I do miss it a little bit.

Anne: Yes, I’m sure people are up in your business in Texas. For sure. Yeah. Okay. Well, thank you so much for being a guest on my podcast. I love hearing about these words that are very specific to Seattle. They’re so culturally, they fit with the place and the environment. It’s fascinating, some of these terms that you shared. I really appreciate it. Uh, and if people want to get in touch with you, I’ll leave your YouTube channel, your Instagram handle, and all of your social media. Uh, this has been such an amazing conversation. I want you to share the plaid thing as well so we can get an idea of what you’re talking about. Like a picture of the Seattle plaid, uh, versus, like, the farmer plaid. Be really interesting.

Cami: Yeah. So Seattle plaid, um, I think you can kind of see this plat is called a buffalo check. So you can see this kind. It’s not like the really plaid. Um, I think when you see the plaid, that is, like, a really busy pattern where there’s lots and lots of lines. That is not as much of the grunge type. Plaid. Also, um, the fit, so more oversized baggy fit.

Anne: Um, and the farmer plat is oftentimes, like, a tight fit.

Cami: It’s a lot tighter. Yeah, definitely tighter. And, um, also in terms of the.

Anne: Tucking into the pants, that would not fly in Seattle.

Cami: Tucking into the pants.

Anne: Would you tuck in one side?

Cami: Yeah. Like, maybe just the front, or, um, either no tucking or tucking in just the front part that, um, might happen. Or just wearing it open with a shirt underneath. I know these days, a lot of girls wear just, like, crop tops or something. Underneath. Whereas, um, in Texas, it is buttoned, usually buttoned up much higher and a full tuck all the way around.

Anne: Interesting.

Cami: Probably with a big belt.

Anne: Kind of like a cowboy look.

Cami: Exactly.

Anne: The cowboy. Cowboy, yeah. And so you never cease to be.

Cami: Shocked on a daily basis by, uh.

Anne: The Texas plaid look.

Cami: I thought that cowboy boots and cowboy hats were just a thing in movies or at rodeos. No, they wear them on a daily basis, and they have their cowboy hats for different purposes. Is your special occasion cowboy hat and boots and then your work cowboy hat, like, for manual labor, and then, like, a daily cowboy.

Anne: That’s amazing.

Cami: Now, I’m in a rural area, so this is a farming community, but I know you got to go.

Anne: Yeah. So next time, maybe we can have another conversation about your community in Texas and some slang there.