In a Grammarphobia posting (see below) I was reminded of a recent Facebook thread about pet peeves, where a Facebook friend of mine who is of the Roman Catholic faith, wrote that she finds it offensive for people to use abbreviations such as "Frisco", "Saint Nick", "Berdoo" and "Saint Rafe" ("Berdoo" is for San Bernardino and "Saint Rafe" refers to Saint Raphael, her church in Springfield).
When several people asked why those examples were offensive to her, she replied, "They are the names of our Saints and should not be abbreviated or subjected to slang."
My Facebook reply: "Although I do not find them offensive, those examples are TRUNCATIONS, not abbreviations!"
Sometimes, I just can't help myself!
I left my heart in … Frisco?
Q: My North Beach uncle used to respond negatively when I used the term “Frisco” to refer to San Francisco. He considered it a huge no-no. He loved the city and thought the usage was disrespectful. What’s wrong with it? I (a Midwesterner) kind of like it.
A: Like your uncle, some San Franciscans object to the use of “Frisco,” saying it’s too touristy or it recalls the city’s gritty past.
Etymologically, it’s simply an abbreviation of “San Francisco,” perhaps introduced by 19th-century sailors who used the shortened name for the port.
We know that the nickname “Frisco” has been around since at least as far back as 1849. The city was officially named San Francisco in 1847, taking its name from the already well-known Bay of San Francisco.
Long before the official naming, though, sailors had referred to the town, the port, and the surrounding region as San Francisco.
For example, Richard Henry Dana uses “San Francisco” for both the port and the region in his sailing memoir Two Years Before the Mast (1840).
The earliest published use of “Frisco,” according to the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, is from an 1849 letter written during the Gold Rush.
The letter, quoted in Octavius Thorndike Howe’s book Argonauts of ’49 (1923), is dated Dec. 30, 1849, and was written by a New Englander who had recently arrived by ship. He uses both the abbreviation and the full name:
“Made good passage to ’Frisco. Captain David Carter of Beverly [Mass.] died on the passage out. Think San Francisco the most contemptible dirty place one could wish to see. Not fit for man or beast.”
Note that the letter writer uses an apostrophe before “Frisco,” so he regarded it as an abbreviation. The apostrophe appears in many early uses.
As we said, this is the earliest known example. But we suspect that earlier ones will turn up, since that letter-writer used the term so casually, as if it were well-known.
“Don’t call it Frisco. It’s San Francisco, because it was named after St. Francis of Assisi. And because ‘Frisco’ is a nickname that reminds the city uncomfortably of the early, brawling, boisterous days of the Barbary Coast and the cribs and sailors who were shanghaied. And because ‘Frisco’ shows disrespect for a city that is now big and proper and respectable. And because only tourists call it ‘Frisco,’ anyway, and you don’t want to be taken for a tourist, do you?”