How to Sound Like a Local in Fresno

So, you’re officially a Fresnan now — a resident of the ‘No, FresYes or 559, depending on who you’re talking to.

How we choose to define ourselves is just as diverse as the city itself, but there are a few turns of phrase, common expressions and the like that bring us together and are entirely Fresno.

We speak freeway

If you’ve seen Saturday Night Live’s recurring sketch, “The Californians,” you know how seriously we take our driving. Sure, we may be several hours north of the massive networks of concrete for which Los Angeles is known, but Fresno is home to several state freeways that we love to refer to when getting around town.

There’s a bit of discrepancy between NorCal and SoCal folks on tacking on “the” before a particular route considering that we’re, well, geographically situated in Central California. Personally, “the 41” sounds much more official than the highway number on its own, so consider that a choice for you to decide for yourself.

Know your local beer

California is the birthplace of the craft brewing movement in the United States (yeah, you’re welcome). And while Fresno is smaller than the state’s various craft brew epicenters, our list of 20-plus original breweries and brewpubs is steadily bubbling. One of the city’s firsts, Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co., is a great starting point to get a taste of the local flavor, with its bevy of beers found on many area restaurant menus.

Get your xeriscape on

This three-syllable word is the norm for many Fresno residents’ front and backyards these days. Put plainly: when it comes to manicured landscapes, brown is always better. Drought-tolerant, water-wise, smartscaping — however you want to slice it, xeriscaping is our community’s way of conserving water by embracing gardening techniques that require less water. Sexy, right?

Talk Fresnan to me

As a faithful parishioner of the English-language church that is Merriam-Webster, I typically don’t subscribe to the use of regional slang. That is, until an expression like “hella” slips out and I realize that I totally do. When an event calls for an adverb that is extreme, “hella” will suffice.

When something is really bad, we turn to the term “wack” to aptly describe how unbearably messed up it is. And if the word “hey” isn’t enough of an enthused greeting, for many Fresnans, “A-yo!” fits the exuberant bill.

There’s only one downtown

Part of acclimating to a new town is understanding its relation to nearby communities. Case in point: the good ol’ town of Clovis.

The two are frequently treated as one giant city, with the mere transition from green (Fresno) to brown (Clovis) street signs signifying the boundary change. But when it comes to Fresno and Clovis’ downtowns, there’s really only one — at least by name.

Fresno’s downtown is undergoing major business development and revitalization efforts to help drive traffic to its historic streets, while Clovis’ downtown — Old Town Clovis or Old Town, for short — is already a hub of rustic, old-fashioned charm that hosts various community events and is home to many local eateries and stores.

The Clovis Way of Life

Speaking of Clovis, its well-known saying, “The Clovis Way of Life,” is quoted as frequently as it is cringe inducing. Many Fresnans mock its clear attempt to separate itself from Fresno’s seemingly rougher culture, highlighting the smaller city’s high-achieving school district and emphasis on family values and its western and agricultural heritage … or something.

Fresno Bulldogs vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

OK, so maybe those Clovis residents have a bit of a point. The Fresno Bulldogs — not to be confused with the Fresno State Bulldogs — is one of the Central Valley’s largest independent drug gangs, and is represented by its signature red color. The group even adopted some of Fresno State’s merchandise as its official uniform, with many schools prohibiting their students from wearing the local university’s garb as a result.

Don’t let that stop you from reppin’ Fresno State’s classic red and blue — becoming a member of the college’s famous Red Wave fan base is a necessary rite of passage for any Fresno transplant to experience. But that’s for another article.



Dani Villalobos