How to Sound Like a Local in Denver

Bruce Goldberg
May 11, 2017
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New residents – especially millennials — are flocking to Denver these days. Though a severe housing shortage is pushing up home prices to record levels, you’re going to come here anyway.

So to ease your path to acceptance, here are tips about how to sound like a native.

Denver Boot

Ignore your parking tickets long enough and you may find an impenetrable wheel clamp on one of your car’s tires. To quote a Bob Dylan song title, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” And passers-by snicker at your fate.


That’s shorthand for Carlos Gonzalez, the Colorado Rockies slugging outfielder. Had you been here last year, you also would have said “Tulo,” for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who was traded to Toronto.

Bag a Fourteener

Colorado has 53 mountain peaks above 14,000 feet. To “bag” one is to reach its summit. A few diehards have climbed every 14er, and you can recognize them by their wan appearance and lack of formal wear.

Barnes Dance

Pedestrians at four-way stops may cross in any direction during the “Barnes Dance,” when all the traffic lights are briefly held at red. Hint: Walk fast.  

Mouse Trap

Where major highways I-25 and I-70 intersect, and traffic slows. It will only get worse when the I-70 upgrades begin. Hopefully, we’ll all be commuting via jet pack by then.

Valley Highway

While we’re on the subject, don’t call I-25 by its original name, the Valley Highway. People will look at you as if you’re from Mars. Or Utah.

Orange Crush

The Denver Broncos had an outstanding defense this past season, winning the Super Bowl. But that wasn’t a first; its Orange Crush was the 3-4 defense during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Fans get misty-eyed when they mention some of its standouts, such as Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson, Barney Chavous, Lyle Alzado, Rubin Carter, Billy Thompson, Louie Wright and Steve Foley.

Casa Bonita

This Mexican restaurant is loaded with kitsch, and beloved by natives and visitors alike. It has a 30-foot waterfall meant to evoke Acapulco’s cliffs, cliff divers (the pool is 14 feet deep), stage shows, a gift shop and arcade, Black Bart, 52,000 square feet and room for 1,000 diners. Out front, there’s an 85-foot pink tower façade.

South Park

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the gents who created the Comedy Central TV program “South Park,” met at the University of Colorado. The real South Park features 14,000-foot peaks, a river valley, a history of gold mining, the towns of Fairplay and Alma, and people who are much better behaved than the cartoon characters.


The city is a few miles northwest of Denver and is pronounced “LU-IS-VILLE.” It is not the home of the Kentucky Derby.

Biff America

His real name is Jeffery Bergeron, and he writes a monthly column featuring stories about beer, sex and skiing. He also appears on television, and in newspapers and magazines.

Yard sale

A clever, sarcastic term for when a skier has a spectacular crash, with poles, skis, hat and gloves spread about.


Nickname for the 32-foot-tall blue mustang sculpture, with flaring red eyes, that you see as you drive into Denver International Airport. Another nickname is DIAblo; clever, huh? Artist Luis Jimenez, who created the sculpture, was killed when part of the sculpture fell on him.

Queen City of the Plains

Denver’s old-timey nickname. Don’t use it, or be marked forever as a visiting yokel. See: Valley Highway.

The mountains

Lost in Denver? Remember, the mountains are to the west. That should make it easy to figure out east, south and north.

RiNo, LoDo

Nicknames for oh-so-hip downtown Denver neighborhoods. Dick Kreck, former Denver Post columnist, created “LoDo” for a revitalized Lower Downtown. RiNo does NOT refer to “Republican in Name Only”; it’s the shortened version of the River North Art District, which adopted a rhino design as its logo. It’s one of Denver’s hottest, fastest-growing neighborhoods.


Denver is the home of this popular fast-food franchise that features burritos and tacos. It’s pronounced Chi-POTE-lee.

Emmanuel Mudiay

The Denver Nuggets chose Emmanuel Mudiay in the first round, and he made the NBA’s All-Rookie team this season. It’s pronounced MOO-dee-ay.


We’ve always maintained it should be spelled Coloradan. But the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper has its own unique spelling. We believe we’re right, but remember this adage: Never get into a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel.


Oh, you wanted to hear about marijuana? Well, Cheech, here’s the scoop: Colorado passed Amendment 64, which made it the first state to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. There are pros and cons, depending on where you stand on this issue: The state is taking in millions of dollars in taxes. Dispensaries are everywhere, and ERs have gotten more visits from those that misjudged the potency of cannabis edibles.