Frisco, San Fran, West Bay, The City and Other Names for San Francisco
San Francisco has many names, some of which are common, others are rare, and some are avoided at all costs by certain Bay Area natives. Here's a quick list of some of the things that folks living in San Francisco may call it.
This is probably the most common nickname that San Francisco has. San Francisco is the largest city in the Bay Area and actually feels like a big city. It has skyscraper, places stay open 24 hours a day, a big airport, etc. Contrast this to Oakland or San Jose. Both large cities in terms of population, but they just don't have a big city vibe in the same way San Francisco does. They have shorter buildings, less nightlife, public transit stops running earlier, and many streets look deserted by 1am.
Since San Francisco feels like the only city in norther California, most locals refer to it as The City.
This nickname is acceptable in all Bay Area social circles. Feel free to call it The City anytime you want.
Frisco is a shortened version of San Francisco and is both really common and really disliked by locals.
A little history: In 1953, San Francisco Chronicle writer Herb Caen published a book called "Don't Call It Frisco," which contains an essay of the same time. He claims that no one in San Francisco or the Bay Area actually uses the term frisco. He sums it up at the end of the essay by writing "Don't call it Frisco. Don’t ask me why. Just don't."
For whatever reason, this is a popular idea among a large population in the Bay Area. Many people in San Francisco will assume you are a tourist if you use the nickname Frisco.
The funny thing is, there is also a large population of Bay Area and San Francisco natives who accept and use the nickname Frisco all the time. For some people this is the preferred name for San Francisco.
I don't know if the difference between these two groups is based in class, race, culture or some combination of the three. But most people who dislike the work Frisco are white, middle class, and probably read writers like Herb Caen (journalists).
The San Francisco natives who freely use the term Frisco tend to be working class, people of color, and largely fans of hiphop music. A lot of black folks use the nickname Frisco. A lot of hiphop lyrics use the nickname. And you're likely to hear the nickname in certain working class neighborhoods (the few that exist in the Bay Area anymore).
So, Frisco is a perfectly acceptable nickname for San Francisco for some, but not for others. If anyone tries to tell you that Frisco is frowned upon, just put on some E-40, Too $hort, or Mac Dre; all Bay Area rappers who constantly use the nickname Frisco.
This is pretty similar to Frisco, but less common. Again, some people will cringe when they hear it, others embrace it.
Geographically, San Francisco and the cities directly south of it are part of a peninsula. Because of that, this is the most common term to use for that part of the Bay Area. Be aware that this does not mean San Francisco alone, but includes places like Daly City, San Mateo, South San Francisco, etc.
This is a very common term for discussing a region within the Bay Area. Often the Bay is split up into four areas the Peninsula, the East Bay, the North Bay, and the South Bay.
The West Bay
This one is interesting and I would love to know more history about this phrase. It's the most punk rock term on this list.
The West Bay is basically another term for the Peninsula and includes all the same cities. It's obviously more consistent with terms like East Bay and South Bay.
However, almost no one uses this term! Most Bay Area natives have never heard anyone actually call San Francisco and the neighboring cities the West Bay... Except the punks!
I first came across the term West Bay in an issue of Absolutely Zippo, a well known Easy Bay punk zine. If I remember right, the issue included a mock rivalry between the East Bay punks and the West Bay punks. Of Course the East Bay punks were made to look great.
There are other examples of the term West Bay by Bay Area punks. The This Is Berkeley Not West Bay seven inch is a great example of this.
More recently a lot of punks from cities directly south of San Francisco, like San Mateo would say they were from the West Bay, including Tony Molina.
So if you want to look super punk, start calling San Francisco and its surroundings the West Bay. But be aware, if you do, anyone outside of the punk scene might think you're a little strange. And to be honest, this isn't even that common of a term within the punk scene.