One of the easiest ways to identify someone new to Austin is the lingo he or she uses to identify the highway known to townies as Mopac. The Mopac Expressway is usually identified on street signs and road maps as Loop 1. However, in all the time that I have lived in Austin, never have I heard a true Austinite refer to this road as "Loop 1," "1," or "Highway 1." It is always spoken of (fondly) as "Mopac," so named for the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
As a side note, don't be alarmed when you see a train chugging along in the middle of Mopac. This is all a part of the highway's charm.
Something that clearly identifies a non-Austinite is pronouncing Burnet in any way that emphasizes the "e" in the name of this major thoroughfare. Burnet is not pronounced by any upstanding Austinite, or Texan for that matter, as Burn-net. Instead, make sure you pronounce it like "Burn It." Or, prepare yourself for the same advice I received as a newcomer, "Burnet, durn it, can't you learn it?"
Heard of SoHo? Meet SoCo. The South Congress district is a thriving community of restaurants, shops, and food trailers. Just don't look confused if someone refers to the street as SoCo instead; this is increasingly becoming the normal Austin slang for the district.
Many people moving to Austin for the first time are students coming to the University of Texas at Austin. As a result, they will spend a great deal of time on Guadalupe, the street running along the west side of campus and beyond. However, most Austinites drop the last "e" entirely from the name, creating from this originally Spanish term a uniquely Austin piece of lingo. So remember, when referring to Guadalupe, it is accepted (if not expected) to say "Guadaloop."
5. The Drag
Speaking of Guadalupe, another of the slang terms Austin locals find indispensable is "The Drag." Very few people refer to the strip directly west of campus as Guadalupe, or even as "Guadaloop." This section of Guadalupe is, and likely always will be, referred to as "The Drag."
Another street name that has "transcended" its original pronunciation is Manchaca Road. Think the A at the end of this name should be pronounced? Think again. Manchaca is pronounced by Austinites as Man-Chack. Or, to put it another way, Manchaca should rhyme with "Man-Tack," not "Mon-Rock-A."
7. Town Lake
Austinites loved the late Lady Bird Johnson. Her commitment to the wildlife and wildflowers of Austin will not be soon forgotten.
That does not mean that the renaming of the reservoir near downtown Austin from "Town Lake" to "Lady Bird Lake" has been an entirely smooth transition. The term Town Lake has been so ingrained in the Austin's local language that many people still refer to it, or at least think of it, as Town Lake.
So what should you, as a newcomer, do when referring to this body of water? Your best bet will be to refer to the lake as Lady Bird Lake, but nod knowingly when someone refers to it as Town Lake. That way, you will be acknowledging that you are a newcomer, you will be respecting the beloved Lady Bird, and you will seem like you are in the know regarding the lake's history.
8. Keep Austin Weird
The origin and rights to this phrase have seen a bit of contention (for more information on this battle, see this article from the New York Times), but it is generally accepted that librarian Red Wassenich coined the term. While the trademarked is now held by Outhouse Designs, "Keep Austin Weird" is still widely used as an unofficial slogan in the Austin community, especially as a campaign supporting the area's small businesses.
9. Violet Crown
You're likely to see the term "Violet Crown" scattered throughout the city of Austin in names of organizations and businesses alike. Though not slang, the term derives from a once commonly used nickname for Austin, the "City of the Violet Crown." This colorful piece of Austin lingo pays homage to the violet hue the town seems to assume at sunset and sunrise.
Finally, the most popular of all slang terms: Austin natives are not Austonians or Austiners. Always, and only, use the term Austinite. Be careful of who you refer to as an Austinite, though. If you have only been in Austin for a year, or even for five years, you may not be considered a true Austinite. This term is usually reserved for someone who has lived in the town for at least a decade.
If you remember these 10 slang terms, Austin natives will likely deem you one of their own. But don't try to blend into the background too much: after all, Austinites love to be weird!
- Overview: Austin Travel Guide
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