How to Sound Like a Local: A Lingual Guide to Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City’s population is an interesting mix of natives and transplants. Many people who live here were born and raised in Utah and still reside with or near their extended families. However, with easy access to the mountains and a growing tech sector, more of our residents are moving in from out of state.

For those who aren’t Utahns by birth, there are a few deeply ingrained cultural conventions and language quirks you should know. Take these tips to heart, and you’ll sound like a local in no time.

2100 South vs. 21st South

Street naming conventions throughout Utah are similar to longitude and latitude. Temple Square downtown serves as point zero, and streets are numbered based on blocks east, west, north, and south. Every street has a number, even if it isn’t round like 800 or 5600. When read aloud, numbers are ordinal rather than cardinal: 9th East rather than 900 East and 21st South rather than 2100 South.

LDS/The Church

Salt Lake City was founded and settled by Mormon pioneers, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints global headquarters is in downtown Salt Lake City. Roughly 60 percent of Utahns are LDS, though that number is slightly lower in Salt Lake. The Church is a powerful and influential institution in Utah, and you’ll likely be asked if you “are LDS”—a member of the church.

Three-Point-Two

Utah has weirdly restrictive alcohol laws, one of which is that beer sold at grocery and convenience stores and at restaurants with certain types of liquor licenses must be under 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (4 percent by volume). Stronger beer can be found at state liquor stores—although at room temperature—and in bottles and cans at many bars.

Fry Sauce

If you like condiments, you are in luck. Fry sauce, traditionally a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise, is ubiquitous in Utah. It was originally popularized by Arctic Circle, a local fast food chain. Though similar sauces exist elsewhere in the world, it is a standard side in Salt Lake City.

Pioneer Day—or Pie and Beer Day?

July 24 is Utah’s own special holiday commemorating the arrival of the first Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. Banks and many businesses close on Pioneer Day, and cities host parades, concerts, and community events. Non-Mormons prefer to celebrate Pie and Beer Day—check out Beer Bar downtown for dozens of pie and beer pairings.

The Missing “T”

You might not guess that Utahns have their own accent, but researchers at Brigham Young University found that in certain words, locals tend to drop the “T” sound, especially when followed by a syllable ending in “N.” Think “mountain” or “Layton”—both commonly used. Young women in particular are prone to this speech quirk.

Peak Bagging and Powder Days

One of Salt Lake City’s main draws is the easy access to some of the best skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and climbing in the country. Spend your warm-weather months bagging (summiting) the many mountain peaks towering around the Salt Lake Valley and your winters skiing or boarding through the Greatest Snow on Earth. Don’t be surprised if half of your coworkers call in sick on a powder day!

The U and the Y


The University of Utah and Brigham Young University, also referred to as the U and the Y, have a healthy rivalry known as the Holy War. BYU is owned and operated by the LDS Church, while U of U is a public university run by the state of Utah. You’ll find hardcore fans of each throughout SLC.

Tooele and Oquirrh

Tooele is both a county and a city west of Salt Lake, and the correct pronunciation is TOO-WILL-AH. The Oquirrh Mountains divide the Salt Lake and Tooele Valleys, and the correct pronunciation is OAK-ER.

KSL

Salt Lake has its own version of Craigslist, and if you ever need to buy or sell anything ranging from extra furniture to a car or find an apartment to rent, the KSL Classifieds are your best bet. More broadly, KSL is a local news outlet.

If you’re looking to truly master the Utah accent, use this funny-but-true pronunciation guide from the Provo-based Daily Herald.



Emily Long