The Sonia Show

Writer. Podcaster. Beer drinker. Old movie watcher. Mother. Goober.

Is it rude to refer to San Francisco as The City?


Yeah, so, San Francisco has a lot of nicknames: SF, Frisco, San Fran, The City By The Bay. Growing up a mere 33 miles away, I always referred to San Francisco as The City.

“We’re going into The City to see yet another director’s cut of ‘Blade Runner.'”

I don’t know where I picked that nickname up from, but I would guess that my friends probably referred to San Francisco as The City, so I did, too.

I don’t think much about it. A lot of folks that I follow on the social medias have thoughts and feelings about what are the proper nicknames for San Francisco.  I don’t get that worked up about it. No matter what you call it, San Francisco is awesome. Plus, I pay a lot of money to live here, so I’ll call it whatever I want. As long we keep paying that San Francisco rent, I can call it “Rick” if I want to.

I started working in The City in 1998, and I moved here 10 years after that. The City changed my life. I wrote a love letter to The City as part of the I Live Here: SF series. I moved here a single girl with wiener dog. And now I’m married with a wiener dog and raising a 3-year-old San Francisco native. I love living in The City.

Photo by local legend Julie Michelle. Taken in the Dogpatch in 2009.

Photo by local legend Julie Michelle. Taken in the Dogpatch in 2009.

So, yeah, I’m writing about San Francisco nicknames, because the other day I referred to San Francisco as The City, and I’m worried that it made me sound like a jerk, and now I’m thinking I need to reprogram my brain to call San Francisco something else.

We were in Concord at a playground with The Kid. We struck up a conversation with another parent at the playground, and she asked us where The Kid goes to preschool. “Oh, we live in The City. The name of the school is …”

Does referring to San Francisco as The City make it sound like where she lives is not a city?

I live in The City, not in some town like Concord. Do you even have running water and electricity here?” *accidentally drops my monocle into my martini glass* “Oh my!

She didn’t seem to think it was rude, and we had a perfectly fine chat. It wasn’t until right before I was falling asleep that night that I realized maybe that wasn’t very nice. I always save my little panic attacks for right before bedtime, because I hate myself.

So, you guys, what do you think: Is it assy to refer to San Francisco as The City when you are in another city?




Author: The Sonia Show

I'm a writer/podcaster/mother/goober in San Francisco who likes to drink beer, shop, laugh and make other people laugh, watch old movies, go to baseball games, kick breast cancer's ass, explore with my mighty, mighty good man David and my awesome autistic son, Calvin, participate in general jackass-ery, and post personal things about myself on the web for all to read, which makes me some sort of literary exhibitionist.

32 thoughts on “Is it rude to refer to San Francisco as The City?

  1. You bring up a good point. I initially thought,”Yeah, it sounds assy.” But then I thought about it like this: We do pay the highest rents in the country now, even more than Manhattan. We ARE The City. I think for many of us who have lived here for a while, we get caught up in The Bubble and forget how different it is here compared to anywhere else. But as you say, SF has many names and it doesn’t matter what you call it…except maybe Frisco.

  2. I grew up 20 miles outside of Manhattan. We called it the City. I think if you grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, or Minneapolis or Dallas, you just might refer to those cities as “The City”.

  3. Referring to SF as “The City” is fine. It comes from when San Francisco was the ONLY city west of the Mississippi, and it stuck.

  4. In The Maltese Falcon, when Humphrey Bogart needs to mail something, he simply writes the street address on the envelope with the word “City” below it. You better believe that package did not go to Morgan Hill or Pinole or (holds nose) San Jose.

    San Francisco is the City. Oakland is the Town (as in Oaktown). It’s been this way since the 1800s and it will remain this way long into the future. Anybody with “thoughts and feelings” about these matters is being an over-sensitive baby.

  5. Not offensive to the people in the Bay Area. I’m from Chicago and when I lived in THAT City. I would tell people from the burbs I lived in the city or downtown.

    Now people in Oakland might find some offense to that though.

  6. It shouldn’t bother me but I cringe when I hear folks call San Francisco ‘San Fran’ but ‘Frisco’ doesn’t bother me much. When I go to Oakland, I say “I’m going to Beer Revolution” or “I’m going to PCB, Rosamunde, The Trappist, & Beer Revolution”.

  7. I grew up in Concord, and we always referred to SF as “the city.” I think you’re overthinking it.

  8. It’s a really ingrained piece of local dialect. Just think about the fact that folks call South San Francisco “South City,” it’s sort of linguistically fascinating

  9. The City Stories of SF Natives.

  10. You think it’s ok to call San Francisco, “Frisco” but you’re concerned that calling it, “The City” makes you sound like a jerk? I would argue that you sound like a jerk because you’re a jerk. The difference between you and a writer is that a writer at least does a modicum of research and a jerk just states whatever makes them feel good at the time, regardless if the potentially damaging effect it has on their readership. Before you ‘reprogram’ your brain, you need to engage it by filling it with learning you can’t reprogram a vacuum.

    Among myriad other reasons… we don’t call our city “Frisco” because it’s not a creative nickname and unlike most nicknames, it is entirely lacking in affection. It’s a disagreeable, poorly informed and insulting bastardization. Among the Saints, we were named after the coolest one, a person who is actually worth a little reverence…Saint Francis’ meditations and lessons resonate to this day in the power of their simplicity and in their message of compassion. They are something even non-Catholics like myself are inspired to do good works by. I don’t know if that will mean anything to someone who believes, that “I pay a lot of money to live here, so I’ll call it whatever I want. As long we keep paying that San Francisco rent, I can call it “Rick” if I want to.” but if could and I would venture to suggest, it should. I’m grateful that most San Franciscans do not share your sentiments.

    As San Franciscans, we are happy and yes, we are honored to be in a city named for someone who questioned and rejected society’s damaging apathy. Unlike your saccharin soul searching, “Does referring to San Francisco as The City make it sound like where she lives is not a city?” Francis’ soul searching, his reflections and subsequent teachings centuries later, continue to inform our better selves. You might allow them to inform yours. It’s not your fault you’re not a native but must you emulate a nouveau riche conquistador? You’re here now, you made it…you can be your ideal self. You don’t have to spit at people to be noticed by them.

    If you’re up to actually challenging yourself…even slightly, how about trying to uphold the tradition we have here of politely eschewing the use of “Frisco” and learning WHY we do that and helping us continue to honor our city, ourselves and each other… instead of being a jerk?

    I know the article is not altogether serious, I know it has a dubious premise, the question you raise is not exactly challenging. In fact, I’d call it wafer thin but I don’t want to insult any wafer makers. However, your silly article became less so when you decided to take it upon yourself to be the harbinger of something you obviously knew nothing about and which erodes our quality of life. I understand that this is just blogging and you can say whatever you like because you pay for the URL, but your right to freedom of expression ends where the justification of the name “Frisco” meets our eyes and ears. You can do better. Give it a shot. Welcome to San Francisco.

    • Hey Paul, you are taking a lighthearted blog post a little too seriously. You appear to be one of those snobby San Francisco assholes that make life difficult for the rest of us that live here, because people outside of San Francisco think we’re all like you. And, obviously, you are one of those people that loses their damn mind when someone even utters the word “Frisco.” Frisco is one of many nicknames that I listed at the start of this piece, and it’s not what I call San Francisco. I refer to San Francisco as The City, so all your anger seems a little misplaced.

      Also, it must really piss you off to know that I call myself a writer, because I am a writer.

      Thanks for reading!

    • I’ve lived here my entire life, and have always cringed at the word “Frisco,” but man alive you’re making me rethink that position.

    • Wow dude. You seem to have some silly misplaced anger. Your entire note is based in opinion and not fact. So I challenge you to perhaps do a little soul-searching and research of your own. Then maybe decide that rather than attacking someone else for their light-hearted opinion, you would serve society better by not being a jerk, but informing rather than ridiculing.

  11. I was born in San Francisco and I am now in my 80’s. My family and others of our acquaintance have always referred to SF as “the City”. I have even heard from people who live in other states call it the “City”. Nothing new here.

  12. The impression I’m getting is everyone in the Bay Area is totally fine with The City. I guess I was being overly sensitive. I didn’t want to unintentionally hurt people’s feelings.

  13. I wonder if St. Francis would consider Paul’s informative comment one of those “good works?” Doubtful.

  14. fuck you sonia

  15. Also, this.

    “”Adolescence is believing that ‘Frisco’ is a racy nickname for a city; senility is automatically saying ‘don’t call it Frisco,’ maturity is figuring it doesn’t matter all that much … ” – Herb Caen

  16. “I wandered out like a haggard ghost, and there she was, Frisco – long, bleak streets with trolley wires all shrouded in fog and whiteness…” and as I wandered, I came to the conclusion that you’re right. Guilty as charged – I am an asshole. I apologize for the personal attacks, obviously, an asshole wrote them and I am he. My intention wasn’t to hijack the article, to upstage you nor to squander my point on a weak ad hominem. And I am mortified that I might have helped inspire the other asshole, anonymous or not. I do hate ‘Frisco’ but it’s a contextual thing, and it’s my thing. Call her what you will, of course, and I support your right to do it.

    • Thank you so much for coming back, Paul. I accept your apology. You are welcome here anytime.

      • That is very generous of you, Sonia.

        I am still bewildered as to why Paul welcomed you to The City when you are a native to the Bay Area and he is apparently from Orange County. If anything you should be the one welcoming him. … Although he has not made himself very welcome.

        When we worked at The Examiner the accepted style was to refer to San Francisco as The City (with capital letters), so I’ll bet that is where it started for both of us.

  17. It is entirely appropriate to refer to San Francisco as The City. Anyone who thinks otherwise has no concept of history.

    People have been calling it The City long before you and will do so long after.

    As references, please see Journey’s song Lights, and Eddie Izzard’s (or Eddie Ifft…I always get those two names mixed up. The cross dressing Brit) comedy stylings recorded somewhere in The City (google it…I’m on my phone).

  18. Pingback: Weekend warriors | The Sonia Show

  19. For what it’s worth (which is virtually nothing), I’ve always been very comfortable saying The City. I’m not violently opposed to Frisco, bit it has never sounded right coming out of my mouth, and I usually only say it in the context of song titles, like “Mean Ol’ Frisco.”

  20. When I first moved here from Iowa, I would say, “I’m going into town.” People laughed at me so hard.

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