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LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Learning the local lingo

Katie Shaffer, Sierra Sun

There’s a lot of locals’ lingo spoken around our town that I’ve noticed over the years.

I suppose any area has its own set of distinctly regional dialogue. The interesting thing about some of this jargon is that while it may be intended to be funny, some of it is just plain disparaging.

It’s not a dialect that is always complimentary to those of us who live here because it reveals an “I’m better than you” attitude. Maybe it’s just the way it goes, no matter where you live. Maybe I should just lighten up.

As my fourth grader is learning in school this year, put-downs are not an effective means of behavior, and should be corrected with a “put-up.” Put-downs however, seem to be more the norm among we adults who missed this lesson in school.

“Flatties” is a term that a few friends of mine like to use to identify those who are visitors to our area-those who live in the flatlands. Flatties are the kind of people who wear ski boots in the grocery store. Or you might see such a person donning their mountain wear, say an oversized cowl-neck sweater, while eating out in a downtown restaurant on a balmy March evening.

One of these friends of mine spotted what he called the ultimate flattie this past winter while skiing one afternoon at Alpine Meadows. This alleged flattie had stuck his ski lift ticket directly onto his ski jacket, rather than getting a wire wicket and hanging the ticket off of a zipper the way most skiers do.

It’s amusing for those of us who live here to laugh at those who obviously come from somewhere else. Is it just human nature that makes it so we can’t be more broad-minded toward those who are different from us?

It’s interesting also to take a look at the local lingo that develops amongst our area children. A friend of mine’s 12-year-old son entered his first snowboard competition this past winter. As his mom tells me, snowboarding is the sport for him because of all the “schwag” he came home with that day. Schwag is local lingo for promotional stuff or prizes including items such as hats, t-shirts, pins, and stickers.

This same kid told his mom that he had snowboarded in a Kah-hula competition. When he proudly showed her all the schwag he had won, his mom realized that it was actually a competition sponsored by a maker of the alcoholic drink Kahla.

Lastly, there are those phrases used to describe when you wipe out while skiing or snowboarding. Several years ago, when I took a major spill at a local ski area, I thought I had done a “face plant.” However, a ski patroller came up behind me and called out “yard sale!” I was so dazed from my fall that I didn’t get the full meaning right away as he helped me gather up my sunglasses, gloves, skis and poles that were spread about.

“Yard sale” and “face plant” are the kind of phrases that define us as a mountain ski town with a sense of humor.

It’s one thing to laugh at others. It’s better to laugh at ourselves.

Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.


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