[Ads-l] "The Big Easy"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Mar 6 01:05:56 UTC 2019

> On Mar 5, 2019, at 7:00 PM, Geoffrey Nunberg <nunbergg at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Actually, genuine* San Franciscans don’t get into a tizzy over “Frisco,” though nobody uses it — it’s old-fashioned, but hey, Jack London used it and you have to have a warm spot for Alan Ladd and Joanne Dru (!) in the 1955 Hell on Frisco Bay. It only became a Thing when Herb Caen put the kibosh on it in a 1995 SF Chronicle column (https://goo.gl/ANQVc4 <https://goo.gl/ANQVc4>). What drives people here crazy is “San Fran,” which is still in obnoxious use. Bold Italic did a good a piece on SF nicknames at https://goo.gl/Dfhn4k <https://goo.gl/Dfhn4k>, calling “San Fran” “the uncool one."
> From a report of a 2018 survey of 200 Bay Area residents in Curbed (https://goo.gl/3eBnaq <https://goo.gl/3eBnaq>):
> When asked the “term you use most often,” 41.5 percent said “San Francisco.” 27.5 percent most often call it “The City,” and 12 percent prefer “SF.” Inexplicably, 9 percent say “San Fran,” while “Frisco” hangs around at 4.5 percent.
> As it happens, though, only 15 pct of respondents actually live in SF, so take that for what (little) it’s worth. Actually, after 35 or so years here I just call it the City now, though I have to be careful when returning to Manhattan, where the City is just, you know, the City. (My students at Brooklyn College used to call Manhattan the City.)
> *I make it about 4 left on my block.

The New York Times dialect quiz (Josh Katz et al.) included “the City” in their survey and came up with the result, displayed in the relevant map at this site--


[you may need to scroll down]--that it mostly refers to New York, which surprised me, since as Geoff notes it’s a rather standard sobriquet for San Francisco not just in the general Bay Area but outward to states neighboring Northern California and beyond. The aforementioned Herb Caen liked to boast in his column about various individuals living there who received a letter at some point mailed to them at “The City” (without city or state otherwise identified) from the east coast, the Midwest, etc.  (Of course even if his reports were accurate we don’t know how many such envelopes were returned to sender or lost somewhere in New York.) It may also be worth noting that the (champion pro basketball team) Golden State Warriors, whose name doesn’t even mention S.F. and who play in Oakland (for now—their new arena will be located in S.F.), have one of their rotating home jerseys adorned with “The City”, also available as a souvenir for fans: https://www.warriorsteamstore.com/Collections/TheCity/.  I’m pretty sure neither the Manhattan-based Knicks nor the Brooklyn-based Nets have a “City” jersey, although I confess I haven’t been watching too many of their games.   


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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