Chico glossary

[If you’re gonna live here, ya gotta know the lingo]

Photo By Tom Angel

Shortly after moving to Chico, you’ll start to find yourself talking a little funny. You’ll call home and tell your mom you went to “The Bear” and then grabbed a “Scrappy Dog” before taking a drive through the “aaamond orchards.”

Cat got your tongue? No, just Chico and its singular way of speaking. To help interpret, we’ve compiled a list defining some common terms you’ll hear around here. Learn and memorize. This will be on the test.

Sierra Nevada
This is a mountain range, but it’s also a top beer that’s known throughout the nation. It sprang from a once-tiny microbrewery started by Ken Grossman. Now, the East 20th Street brewery includes a tour of the shiny vats and smelly hops along with a classy restaurant—a great place to bring visiting friends and family.

The Bear
Madison Bear Garden, a wacky burger restaurant and bar on Salem and Second streets, is such a Chico legend that it’s got its own nickname. In fact, people have tried to find “The Bear” in the phone book and come up empty, not knowing its formal name. Alternative nickname: “Mad Bear.”

Pioneer Days
Oh, to be young and tipsy in the 1980s. For generations, Chico State students enjoyed this spring festival, which included crowning “Little Nell,” the queen of the parade. Then, a few people had to ruin it for everyone. In 1986, following Playboy magazine’s pick of Chico State as the No. 1 party school in the nation, out-of-towners reveled, cars were overturned, fires were set and then-president Robin Wilson cancelled the event forever. Sure, we’re safer, but so far there’s been nothing to match Pioneer Days in terms of fostering school spirit.

Highway 32, Nord Avenue and Walnut Street
Just to add a little extra confusion to the one-way street phenomenon you’ll find downtown, someone along the way decided to have a little fun with one road that runs through the edge of town. The secret? They’ll all the same street. Nord Avenue is Highway 32, as is Walnut Street. Confused yet?

The Streets and the Avenues
The first time you get lost looking for someplace you were told was on “Second,” you’ll realize why Chico natives shouldn’t swallow the second word when giving directions. We have both numbered streets and numbered avenues. The avenues have a reputation of being classier in terms of living conditions. The streets cross through downtown, west toward the river and into Chapmantown, an historic, working class neighborhood that is the most ethnically diverse in Chico.

The Washout
This is the area along the Sacramento River (call it “the Sac") where those have floated along the water emerge with their inner tubes. Drinking is allowed on the river, but not on The Washout, and if you leave litter there, you’re a real jerk. The prime tubing date is Labor Day.

This scrunched-together phrase is slang for the corner of Warner Street and West Sacramento Avenue, a popular meeting spot for students.

Five and I
Everyone who’s anyone knows Five and I is the most happening place in Chico, particularly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Students converge at the intersection of Fifth and Ivy streets between visits to the Fifth and Ivy St. Market, Riley’s bar and the several fraternity and sorority houses located nearby. At prime party times, such as Halloween (which the city is trying to tone down), they used to just give up and block the street to vehicle traffic.

Aaamonds (pronounced am-inds)
Somehow, in the great history of the North Central Valley, the “L” got dropped from the word “almonds.” It may sound weird at first, but after a while you’ll start correcting people who pronounce it the “wrong” way. Local lore holds that it’s because that during harvest time, they shake or knock the “L” out of the trees. OK, so it’s not that funny, but give the almond growers credit: Along with rice, the nuts are the top money-making crop here.

Here’s how we separate the SoCal from the NoCal folks, if they’re not wearing Dodgers or Giants gear. In SoCal, Interstate 5 is “The 5.” Here, it’s simply “5.” A real time-saver, dropping that “the.”

This is an imaginary line around parts of Chico that Butte County Supervisor Jane Dolan, a former Associated Students president, came up with many years ago to protect agricultural land from being developed.

The Zoo
The Zoo was the nickname for the Sierra West Apartment complex near the Chico State campus, where raucous parties and even couch-burnings took place. Recently, the place came under new management that aimed to chill things out. But it’s still referred to as The Zoo.

Freshman 15
Those low-rider jeans and tight tops have come into style at the wrong time if girls are at all insecure about their bodies. It’s not unique to Chico that young women in particular tend to add at least 10 pounds during their first year in college.

Whitney Hall
We’ve also heard the on-campus dorm called Chez Whit-nay or Shitney Hall. (The university also owns living spaces off campus.) It’s the site where campus police employed an undercover narc in 1996. He lived in the dorms and tried to buy pot from freshmen so they could be busted by campus cops. Charges were dropped because the narc hooked up with a student and bought beer.

Trading card - Jane Dolan, Butte County Supervisor