What’s in a name? A rose, by any other demonym, would smell as sweet.
One of my readers figured out my street address. He sent a google map of the blue bungalow, which really creeped out my husband, Brian, but me not so much. I admire a little detective work, just so long as the guy doesn’t ring our doorbell. The Fisher-Paulsons are more infamous than famous, and our celebrity extends as far as the Diamond Heights Safeway, where someone in the produce section will invariably ask Zane or Aidan, “Which of you got his head stuck in the concrete staircase?”
This reader insisted that because we lived south of Geneva Avenue, we did NOT live in the outer, outer, outer, outer Excelsior but rather in the Crocker Amazon.
Geography is relative. Tomaaaytoe. Tomahtoe. To some of you the East Coast means New York and to others it means anything past Tahoe. Personally, I side with O.Henry, who said, “East is East and West is San Francisco.”
The Excelsior, the last working class neighborhood in San Francisco, may literally mean “ever upward,” but to me it will always mean “ever outward.” The reason I don’t claim the Crocker is a question of aptronyms and demonyms.
The term aptronym was coined by Franklin Pierce Adams of the Algonquin Round Table and it means a name that particularly fits a person, an apt name, like Doctor Angst, the professor of psychiatry; or Sara Blizzard, the British meteorologist; or Thomas Crapper, the sanitary engineer. I hear tell that in that other Californian city, the one to the south of us, there is a lawyer named Sue Yoo. And not to kick a man when he's down, but Anthony Weiner?
In French the word “trompe” (pronounced Trump) means to deceive. It doesn't get any more apt than that.
An inaptronym, therefore, is a name that doesn't fit, like Lance Armstrong, who was more famous for his legs or Don Black, a white supremacist. In 1976 Pope Paul VI elevated the archbishop of Manila to Cardinal...Sin.
Demonymics is the study of how we name people from a place. Sometimes we add an -er as in Michigand-er. Sometimes we add -ite as in Ludd-ite or -ian as in Boston-ian. Weird abbreviations work like Okie or Burqueno. Sometimes it's some random reference as in people from Indiana getting called Hoosier. My favorite example of this is that of my cousins who live in the Pittsburgh/Johnstown Pennsylvania, area, who call themselves “Yinzers” because their second person plural is “Yinz guys,” as in “Yinz guys want a pop?”
This leads me a new category, apt nameplaces. Or aptdemonymics. For both my husband and my buddy (Crazy Mike), their hometowns add –iac to make Main-iac and Guam-aniac.
When Brian and I moved out here twenty-seven years ago, we had had enough of the boroughs. We had been Brooklynites, Hobokeneers and Jersey City-ians, but never Manhattan-ites, or New Yawk-ers, proper. Always a forty-five minute subway ride away. So we were willing to pay the premium to live in Paradise. No offense meant, but we didn’t want to be Oakland-ers or Daly City-ites or Marin-es. We wanted to live in this beautiful town, where we change the Francisc-o to Francisc-an, even if it does occasionally confuse us with an order of monks.
Maybe the Board of Supervisors ought to take this up, and change our demonym to a nickname like Golden Gates or Fogheads or maybe just a better abbreviation, San Frans, Friscos or my favorite: Friskies.
San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, but neighborhoods make for awkward demonyms. Growing up I was never called an Ozone Parker but I was frequently called by my borough (Queens).
But here in Frisky, I’ve hear people say, “I’m from the avenues,” but never, “I’m a Sunsetter.” Maybe if we remembered to call ourselves by where we lived we might have a better sense of neighborhood. Nob Hill, for example, lcould go back to origin. The railroad barons built mansions 376 feet above the waterfront more than a century ago. Nob is a contraction of the Hindu word for wealthy person, Nawwab so they could call themselves Nabobs. Those in Telegraph Hill could be the Telegrams, or Teletubbies. The Mission-aries might embrace their brotherhood.
That insistent reader may not have realized how much of a inaptronym it would be to call the all male Fisher-Paulsons, the house of lost boys, Amazons. Wonder Woman herself would shudder in horror. No, we much prefer to call our ourselves outer, outer, outer, outer Excelsorians. Yes, our family is EXCELlent.