How to Talk Like a Valley Girl

By Kristina Seleshanko
A portrait of a young woman in front of graffiti art.

A 1982 song by Frank Zappa and the 1983 Nicolas Cage movie "Valley Girl," highlighted the distinctive speech of San Fernando Valley upper middle-class adolescent girls of the decade. The peculiarities of the way they talked gave us phrases adopted into everyday language, such as "whatever," "totally," and "oh my god," which even has its own acronym in text. To talk like a Valley girl, add a distinctive rising pitch to the end of sentences, and spice up your vocabulary with well-known Valley girl slang.

A Rising Pitch

Raising the pitch of the voice at the end of sentences is one of the most characteristic qualities of Valley girl speech. While most people's voices only rise in pitch when posing a question, a Valley girl's voice rises even when making statements such as, "Seriously, like that dress is so for a Betty." In the 1995 movie about teen Valley girls, "Clueless," Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash defined a beautiful women as a Betty and a man as a Baldwin. They frequently injected "seriously" into their sentences as way of showing approval.

Valley Speak

To practice the Valley girl vernacular, add the word "like" to place emphasis on what you say. For example: "He is -- like -- so clueless." Valley speak often includes the use of "way" as an adjective. For example, "This is way cool." Another common word in the vernacular's idiom is "totally," which takes the place of the word "really." For example: "He's totally hot" or "that was so totally last year."

Don't Allow Pauses

Valley speak notoriously replaces silence with words that add little or nothing to the conversation. For example, instead of pausing silently before speaking, a Valley girl will say "um ... " while thinking for a moment. If someone hesitates to respond to something you say, a Valley girl would say something such as, "So ... " or "OK, so, you know ... " or "like whatever." Breaks in conversation are uncomfortable for Valley girls and must be filled.

Don't Dumb It Down

Although society tends to equate Valley speak with low intelligence, Amanda Ritchart, a linguistics expert from the University of California, San Diego, says, "I never thought people who were doing it were dumb, because I do it too, and I’m not dumb. I am getting a Ph.D.” So while it may be fun to use a Valley girl accent when portraying dumb characters, a more interesting choice is to usurp the accent when playing someone smart.

About the Author

Kristina Seleshanko began adult life as a professional singer and actress, working on both the West and East coasts. She regularly sang jazz in nightclubs, performed in musical theatre, and sang opera and pop. Later, Seleshanko became the author of 18 books, and has written for such publications as "Woman's Day," "Today's Christian Woman," and "True West." Seleshanko has also been a writing coach, a research librarian for "Gourmet" magazine, and a voice teacher.