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I heard that San Franciscans hate nicknames like "San Fran" or "Frisco". If I want to travel around San Francisco without sounding like a rube, what should I call it?

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Truckers will refer to it as 'shakey-town'. I called it 'Frisco' for a while, but reverted to the full 'San Francisco'. I promise that nobody will think you're a rube for saying 'San Francisco', but they might if you throw out an anachronism or naive malaprop! – Gayot Fow Jan 20 at 4:51
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@GayotFow I believe Los Angeles is more often called "Shakey Town" (but I have never heard a local refer to either Los Angeles or San Francisco that way). – Spehro Pefhany Jan 20 at 4:56
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@Azor-Ahai I actually lived in a town called Frisco, in Colorado. People kept assuming I was talking about San Francisco :/ – Mark Mayo Jan 20 at 6:36
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Yes, it's pretentious and really annoying but locals do simply say "I'm from the city." – Bob Jan 20 at 18:32
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As a sidenote, "San Franciscoans" is not a thing. You can use "San Franciscans" instead. – Zach Lipton Jan 21 at 0:50
up vote 69 down vote accepted

Most locals just call it the City, when it's clear from context that you are talking about the local area. You could say: "I'm staying at a nice hotel in the City". This will be understood to mean "within the San Francisco city limits." (Incidentally, this is a smaller region than most outsiders might guess). In writing, capitalization is optional.

Otherwise, simply call it "San Francisco". There isn't a shorter nickname in common use. It is a lot of syllables; locals tend to say it fast and slur a bit, something like "Sanfruh sisko".

Spanish speakers should note that, as with most Spanish place-names in California, most English-speaking locals use a semi-anglicized pronunciation. "San" is rhymed with "ban", "man", "tan". "Francisco" sounds like the English name "Francis" plus "ko", but the accent is still on "cis". The vowel in "Fran" is either the same vowel as "San", or else an unstressed "schwa" vowel.

"SF" is acceptable in writing (especially headlines, text messages, etc), but not so common in conversation. "SFO" refers to the airport but not the city. I personally have never heard or seen "SFX".

"San Fran" and "Frisco" are deprecated and will tend to mark you as an outsider. Locals tend to find "Frisco" particularly annoying. This goes back at least 140 years.

(I think there's a convention that people who work in the airline industry are "allowed" to say "SanFran". So the agent at the airport ticket counter might tell you "Your bags are checked through to SanFran", but don't take that as an indication of general practice.)


If you want to refer to the greater metropolitan area (including Oakland, San Jose, etc), and not just the city proper, it's "the Bay Area".

This is further subdivided into "North Bay" (north of the Bay itself, e.g. Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano Counties), "East Bay" (Oakland, Berkeley, and the rest of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties), and "South Bay" (San Jose and its immediate suburbs). There is no "West Bay". The ill-defined region between San Francisco and the South Bay (including South San Francisco, San Bruno, etc) is "the Peninsula".

As a side note, I don't think locals use the term "Silicon Valley" much; they're more likely to refer to specific cities like Palo Alto, Santa Clara, etc.

(Source: born and raised in the North Bay, and visit frequently. If there are emerging trends that differ from this, suggestions are welcome!)

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So San Fran and Frisco are no-nos like I heard? – Azor-Ahai Jan 20 at 4:22
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@Azor-Ahai: Yes, they will tend to mark you as a tourist. As a special exception, I believe "SanFran" is considered acceptable to say if you work for an airline. – Nate Eldredge Jan 20 at 4:25
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What is the sentence for incorrect use? Do they throw you in a locally sourced artisan jail? – Gusdor Jan 20 at 10:46
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@Gusdor: By an 1872 decree of Emperor Norton, the use of the word "Frisco" is punishable by a fine of twenty-five dollars. As far as I know, this edict has just as much force now as it ever did. :-) – Nate Eldredge Jan 20 at 15:16
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Say "Frisco" and we won't tell you where we keep the good bread. – Zach Lipton Jan 20 at 22:26

The natives called the San Francisco Bay area Ramaytush Awaste.

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I always love a pedant when I see one! Oh wait, I can't see you, so no... – qarma Jan 20 at 11:42
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The natives of California are the indigenous people of that area. Are we just going to erase their history from memory and replace them with the current "natives"? – Frisbetarian Jan 20 at 11:47
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Your citation doesn't support your claim. It says that Ramaytush is the name of the language spoken by the indigenous people of the area, not that this is their name for the city itself (or even the area it's located on). – Psychonaut Jan 20 at 12:04
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Everyone who originates from San Francisco is a native. Those who argue for narrower definitions are the kind responsible for a lot of bloodshed throughout history. – choster Jan 20 at 15:22
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Let's consult Merriam-Webster: native, n.. 1. one born or reared in a particular place. 2. (a) an original or indigenous inhabitant (b) something indigenous to a particular locality. 3. a local resident; especially : a person who has always lived in a place as distinguished from a visitor or a temporary resident. I interpreted the question to be using the word in senses 1 and/or 3. – Nate Eldredge Jan 20 at 15:25

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and usually people just refer to San Francisco as San Francisco. I lived in the East Bay Area, and someone would say something like Let's go get dinner in the City and this would mean that you are going to San Francisco. However, I feel that it would be better to say San Francisco when you are in San Francisco as saying the City, at least in my perception of it, is referring to San Francisco when elsewhere in the Bay Area.

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