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Football fans are unknowingly taunting SF with its most hated nickname

49ers quarterback Brock Purdy attempts to leap into the end zone during the fourth quarter of an NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals in Santa Clara on Jan. 8, 2023. | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys 19-12 on Sunday, eliminating the Texas team from the playoffs. Ahead of next weekend’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, which will determine who gets to go to the Super Bowl, commentators and fans are throwing around the one term that sets the entire Bay Area’s teeth on edge: “San Fran.”

It’s not enough that Cowboys fans had to get into a large-scale physical confrontation at a viewing party in Dallas, nope. Whether they’re deliberately doing it to drive us all nuts or just adopting that cutesy, rhyming phrase for brevity’s sake, at least one PR firm is tracking a surge in “San Fran” usage in light of the 49ers’ win.

Bospar, creators of a slightly passive-aggressive “Say San Francisco” campaign designed to stamp out “San Fran,” even conducted a study about this. It noted that 58% of people who say “San Fran” would stop if they realized that residents dislike the term, and more Republicans (65%) than Democrats (50%) are prone to throwing it around.

It’s hard not to read this as the latest front in the long-simmering competition between Texas and California, with both states as stand-ins for Red and Blue America, respectively. The Golden State has lost residents in recent years, while Texas, the second-most populous state, has gained enough ex-Californians for “Don’t California My Texas” to become a viable slogan and a jangly country song that sounds like a pickup commercial.

While Austin is widely regarded as eating the Bay Area’s economic lunch, its progressive and increasingly tech-filled culture and lack of a professional sports franchise make it hard for denizens of the Texas capital to loathe San Francisco the way the football-mad and somewhat more conservative-leaning Dallas might. And maybe people are just upset that quarterback Brock Purdy, who was last picked in the draft and once earned the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant,” may just deliver a championship to the football team from America’s most liberal-leaning city.

Debates have gone on and on forever over which names for San Francisco are socially acceptable and which brandish the user as an ignorant outsider. “Frisco” is of course the other one—Bospar calls it “particularly annoying”—and while “Don’t Call It Frisco” appears on comments sections nationwide, many Black San Franciscans have long regarded “Frisco” as a perfectly authentic moniker.

So let’s just stick to “Ess Eff,” or, if you’re really feeling fancy, “The City That Knows How.”