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August 1, 1999 - Slangman: Surfer Slang - 2002-02-05

INTRO: Forget "surfing the Web" or "channel surfing" - today our Wordmasters talk about some of the lingo used by real surfers in Southern California.

MUSIC: "Surfing USA"/Beach Boys

RS: I'm Rosanne Skirble.

AA: And I'm Avi Arditti. For many people who live near the beach, surfing is a way of life. So it's not surprising that surfers have their own slang.

RS: Our expert on slang, David Burke, didn't have to go far to check out surfer talk - he lives near the beach in Southern California.

AA: David Burke says California surfers not only have their own language, but also their own delivery.

RS: You really hear it with vowels: a-e-i-o-u.


BURKE: "Now the surfer style, that is something you'll hear that is more breathy [gives example]. So a lot of (American) surfers would say the phrase `the ocean is producing large waves,'that would become if you use the slang and the delivery,`the big mama is fully mackin' some gnarly grinders.'"

RS: "Could you take that sentence, say it slowly then dissect it?"

BURKE: "OK, the line in normal everyday English is, `the ocean is producing large waves.' But a surfer would say `the big mama is fully mackin' some gnarly grinders.' The big mama is what a surfer calls the ocean. Mackin' is short for macking, which [refers to] a Mac truck; a Mac truck is huge. So if the ocean is `fully macking' then it's producing something as big as a Mac truck.

"Gnarly is a really popular adjective meaning impressive, so a gnarly grinder is a big huge wave that grinds down. So `the big mama is fully mackin' some gnarly grinders' simply means the ocean is fully producing some very large waves. And if it's wave after wave after wave, you would add to that sentence that it is `fully macking some gnarly grinders with corduroy to the horizon,' like corduroy pants, line after line after line."

RS: "Have any of these words crossed over into our vocabulary so even someone who may live by a river and not an ocean may be using them?"

BURKE: "I want you to know that I went through probably 500 words to answer that question that I figured you would ask me, and I found only one. Out of all these words the one that's a teen slang word is `styling.' You'll say `ooh we're styling now,' which means we are doing great now. That one is used in surfer lingo and in teen lingo - but oddly enough, or to the credit of surfers, they've created their own lingo and they've really kept it? in their club so it really has not gone out there yet."

RS: "So there's not much hope for any of us unless you enter as you say the club." BURKE: "If a surfer heard what you just said, Rosanne, that surfer would say `yes, exactly what we want'- they don't want us to know their lingo, unless you become a surfer."

AA: David Burke isn't a surfer, but he learned the slang from some teen-age California surfers he met at the beach and at his local surfing shop.


BURKE: "Now at the end of the interview of these surfer teens, one of them said he had to go scrut - do you have any idea what that means?"

RS: "He had to go clean up his board?"

BURKE: "No actually it means to go eat. And when you scrut you usually scrut some grunts. Now grunts of course - a pig grunts - is food.

So to go scrut some grunts, that's very popular in surfer lingo. Now when a surfer leaves they don't say goodbye, they actually have taken an older expression and really updated it. Years ago they used say `see you later alligator' then they changed it to `later gator' then the teens started saying `later' and `lates', but the surfers say latronic."

AA: David "Slangman" Burke, speaking to us from Los Angeles. You can learn more about surfer lingo from David Burke by surfing the Web to his Internet homepage:

RS: And you can reach us by e-mail; our address is or write to VOA Wordmaster, Washington DC 20547 USA.

AA: With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.