Things People in Portland Say, and What They Actually Mean
Portlanders are an expressive group of people. We speak our minds through music. We loudly proclaim our devotion for causes big and small (sometimes while dangling from bridges). When somebody wrongs us, we’re quick to speak our minds… usually by way of leaving passive-aggressive notes on windshields, but still!
But sometimes, we aren’t really saying what we mean. Luckily, we’ve come up with a handy translation guide to get everybody on the same page.
“It rains all day, every day, for eight months straight.”
Translation: Please don’t move here.
“The rain isn’t that bad. It’s just a light drizzle every now and then. Then the best summer ever!”
Translation: I just moved here and my soul is yet to be crushed by the crippling gloom of a rainy Portland winter. We should exchange numbers and get brunch some time!
[To barista]: “Do you guys have a community board where I can hang up a flyer for a community gathering?”
Translation: The neighborhood is having a meeting to air our grievances with the person who parks their diesel Ford F-350 on our block every night. We don’t want to address him and his egregious offenses to the environment in a direct way, so we’re hoping he sees this flier and and moves his car to the next block over.
“Well, their vehicle had Washington plates on it, so it makes sense.”
Translation: The person who cut you off on I-5 must’ve been in a hurry back home to Vancouver after spending the afternoon screaming at their children at Walmart/Lloyd Center Mall while purchasing tax-free consumer goods.
“Did I see you at Soul Night last week?”
Translation: I recently saw you at Goodfoot making questionable decisions with a person you obviously met on Tinder two hours prior. You can do better. Can I have your number?
“We found a great deal on this really cute bungalow in North Portland off Lombard. It’s not too far up -- you should come visit!”
Translation: We’re moving to St. Johns because we hate everyone and never want to be heard from again. Please do not throw us a going away party.
“Let’s get brunch tomorrow!”
Translation: If both of us miraculously wake up before 8am, put clothes on, and amicably choose a destination, we should totally drive by said destination, scoff at the line, and settle for morning drinks at Holman’s instead. Its bacon is edible.
“Are you into climbing?”
Translation: I’m having trouble stalking you through traditional Internet-based methods, but if you tell me what climbing gym you attend I promise I’ll be there every week to watch you writhe around in those skin-tight shorts.
“I miss the way Belmont Street used to be.”
Translation: Would you like to hear a wistful anecdote about a guy I know who used to watch Elliott Smith score heroin next to the Avalon Theatre on a regular basis?
“Hit me up if you know anyone selling an extra ticket to Sasquatch!... if not, no biggie.”
Translation: I’m in my 30s and tell myself every year that I’m too old for this shit. The siren’s call of getting high and gyrating to Odesza in the hinterland of central Washington becomes stronger and stronger as Memorial Day approaches. I’ll break down, buy a ticket, and Instagram said ticket, and tag it with #yolo and #nomofomo.
“Share the road, asshole!”
Translation: I commute to work via bicycle daily, and want to be treated like any other vehicle on the road. Except when it’s busy, at which time I will barrel down the sidewalk.
“Ugh, they moved the show to the Roseland.”
Translation: I was really excited about the idea of seeing this hot indie band playing to a packed house at a better venue with half the capacity, but now I have to deal with being groped by security guards they bussed in from Gresham whose job is to make sure I’m not bringing in firearms or a vape pen.
“For the first-timers at the table, all our plates are served family-style and are made for sharing!”
Translation: Get ready to spend three times what you expected on what any normal restaurant would offer in a logical presentation where all the food comes out at once. I’m not saying your parents who are visiting from out of town can’t get a Caesar salad, but you’ll have to buy the greens, dressing, and Parmesan separately and put it together yourself. And it’ll cost you $14 to do that.
“I actually don’t own a TV.”
Translation: I really want you to think I’m mysterious, but also can I come watch Game of Thrones at your place some day? Because my eyes are sore from streaming it to my phone using my parents’ HBO Go password.
“Old Portland is dying.”
Translation: I’ve been renting the same house for the five years I’ve lived in Portland, and am pissed that the rent is going up.
“The Pearl was way better two decades ago.”
Translation: I am nostalgic for the days during which I’d exchange money or sexual favors for narcotics.
“The word hipster has lost all meaning.”
Translation: I am a hipster.
“Ugh, that’s a hipster bar.”
Translation: I’m afraid of bars with loud music and large crowds of people who are ostensibly younger and more daring in their fashion choices than me. I went to Rontoms once, got a look when I asked the bartender for the Wi-Fi password, and now I can never go back because they’ve attached my face to the one-star Yelp review I gave them.
“Do you have a minute for the environment?”
Translation: I make a certain amount of money per signature here, and if you don’t help me reach my quota I will publicly shame you.
Translation: I’m a huge Timbers fan who does not tolerate people who just decided to get into soccer for the first time since their AYSO days back in Iowa.
Translation: I recently decided to get into soccer for the first time since my AYSO days back in Iowa.
"Go back to California!”
Translation: I am from California and don’t want people to know about it.
“It’s so cheap here.”
Translation: I am from California and haven’t learned that this is a bad thing yet.
“I went to art school.”
Translation: I work at Powell’s.
“That bar’s for bridge & tunnel people.”
Translation: I live on the eastside and interject data on how infrequently I cross the Willamette River whenever I can. I’m prone to rants that are punctuated by pejoratives like “condos,” “yoga pants,” and “tech bros.” This is the year all of us should colonize Detroit!
“Put a bird on it!”
Translation: I have lived here for approximately 11 minutes, and am extremely sad about the Old Portland I used to know.
Thrillist senior editor Andy Kryza contributed to this anthropological study of Portland linguistics.
Sign up here for our daily PDX email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Portland has to offer.
Pete Cottell is a writer living in southeast Portland, which actually means he’s a barista with a communications degree who’s barely affording the rent on his charming Victorian Craigslist flophouse. Indulge in his acerbic opinions about music, brunch, and the tourists from the westside who ruin his neighborhood every weekend at @Vanifestdestiny.