San Francisco (US city): pronunciation of second "a"?

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Gavril

Senior Member
English, USA
Recently, I heard an Australian English speaker pronounce the place name "San Francisco" (California) as "Sann Frann-siss-ko" -- in other words, both "a"s were pronounced as in the word "man" or "apple".

As someone who's lived in San Francisco, I generally pronounce the second "a" as a schwa. My impression is that the schwa is standard for the second "a" in other English speakers' (US or otherwise) pronunciation of the city's name. I'd only sound out both "a"s for purposes of humor or clarification.

Insofar as you can tell, are there any common pronunciations of the US city name "San Francisco" that don't contract the second vowel into a schwa?
 
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  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    (Breaking my own rule about staying away from pronunciation threads . . . ) I'm a lifelong Midwesterner, and use the same vowel for San and Fran. I never realized there was anyone who didn't, as a matter of fact.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    I'm a lifelong Midwesterner myself, and I always hear it pronounced "sanfrincisco." I say "san-fran-cisco" only when referring to the song about wearing "flowers in your hair." :eek:
     

    WyomingSue

    Senior Member
    English--USA
    I think we have stuck in our heads (well, maybe not in Australia) the old advertising jingle about Rice-a-Roni, the San Fraan-cisco treat!
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    As someone who's lived in San Francisco, I generally pronounce the second "a" as a schwa. My impression is that the schwa is standard for the second "a" in other English speakers' (US or otherwise) pronunciation of the city's name. I'd only sound out both "a"s for purposes of humor or clarification.
    OK, I'm not in the US, but I just wanted to confirm that impression too. I'd use a schwa (or 'schwi' as others have said) for the second <a> too: /ˌsænfrənˈsɪskəʊ/ - because English speakers don't like three 'heavy' consecutive syllables. But there's also the general principle that the further away you are, the more likely you are to give fuller values to vowels - it would not surprise me if an Australian gives full vowels to Newfoundland, for example.
     
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    MarFish

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I am from the San Francisco Bay Area and I've always heard it pronounced as "San Frincisco" as mentioned above.

    However I'm sure the proper pronunciation is with "man, apple."
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Are you sure about this being the proper pronunciation of "San Francisco"? I'm just curious because I lived there for quite a while, and I came to expect the schwa ("Fr(i)ncisco") even in very formal contexts (e.g., a mayoral speech or a visiting Governor/President's speech). The "man"/"apple" pronunciation might be common, as other posts have suggested, when a person from elsewhere/outside the US pronounces the name, but I'm still a little surprised by this pronunciation because I imagine (maybe wrongly) that SF is commonly referenced in international media.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The form with the full vowel is usual for the anglicized version of the Spanish name: Francisco Franco would be given (almost) the same first syllable twice by someone who wasn't particularly au fait with Spanish. In this unstressed position you might expect a schwa, but for some reason [æ] is used. So it's not too unnatural to use this in San Fran..., and while we're at it, does anyone actually say 'San Fran', or is it something like 'the Big Apple', that I have to violently cross out because it doesn't sound folksy and with-it and global, it sounds drippy? So in the full name, a schwa is natural in a weakened middle unstressed syllable, but there are analogical reasons around for using a full vowel. Of course we should all have heard the name said by natives or neighbours often enough that we should have picked it up.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    It does sound a little drippy to say "San Fran", but not as much so (in my opinion) as saying "the Big Apple" for NY. "San Fran" can work if it seems as though the speaker is conscious of how "drippy" it can sound, but as far as I know this doesn't work with "the Big Apple".
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I'm a lifelong Midwesterner myself, and I always hear it pronounced "sanfrincisco."
    I am from the San Francisco Bay Area and I've always heard it pronounced as "San Frincisco" as mentioned above.
    Since you are both AmE speakers, when you write the i for the second a , does it sound anything like an i (like the i in cisco) or is that just how you write the sound of a schwa (a schwa is like the a in about)? I know it is common for Americans to lose the i sound from an unstressed i, so perhaps the i represents the schwa in "Frincisco". (In "The Star-Spangled Banner" sung in public before events like Giants' games :eek: the i in the word "perilous" is carefully enunciated as "uh" - that's a schwa). I have never heard, in my 30+ years in the Bay Area, anyone put any vowel like an i (in tin) as the second a in SF; it would sound like the i in fringe?
     
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    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I agree with Julian that we're talking about "San Fruhncisco" here. It's more like the vowel in "from" (when not pronounced as an "o," obviously).

    I grew up in the Bay Area, live in SF, and would never ever say "San Fran." I hate hearing the nasal "aaaa" in "Fran." I would never correct anyone who said that, but I would immediately know that they weren't from here, and that they didn't really know much about being from here, either.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I grew up in the Bay Area, live in SF, and would never ever say "San Fran." I hate hearing the nasal "aaaa" in "Fran." I would never correct anyone who said that, but I would immediately know that they weren't from here, and that they didn't really know much about being from here, either.
    I wouldn't normally say "San Fran" either, but I think it would sound acceptable to me if it was said in a very understated tone, and if the speaker used it sparingly enough.
     
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    scrotgrot

    Senior Member
    English - English
    Strangely I think I have free variation between the two for that vowel. Speaking slower or with emphasis is, as ever, likely to bring out the full vowel.

    It seems to be a mild version of the common case of local town names relaxing much of their original pronunciations. In England we have had several hundred years to do this which is why Americans are often apt to embarrass themselves over Gloucester, Leicester, Norwich and so on. Two of the best known cases in North America are Newfoundland and Maryland, which many outsiders mispronounce with full vowels.
     

    MarFish

    Senior Member
    English - American
    ... and while we're at it, does anyone actually say 'San Fran', or is it something like 'the Big Apple', that I have to violently cross out because it doesn't sound folksy and with-it and global, it sounds drippy?
    I want to say that it depends where you are when you want to refer to San Francisco.

    If you are around the San Francisco bay area then you can simply refer to it as "the city" (that's what we say and I hear it a lot since I'm from the San Francisco bay area, it's also very informal). I have heard people say "San Fran" before, but not from anyone who I believe is born in the area.

    I agree with Julian that we're talking about "San Fruhncisco" here. It's more like the vowel in "from" (when not pronounced as an "o," obviously).

    I grew up in the Bay Area, live in SF, and would never ever say "San Fran." I hate hearing the nasal "aaaa" in "Fran." I would never correct anyone who said that, but I would immediately know that they weren't from here, and that they didn't really know much about being from here, either.
    You posted this while I was making my post. Thought I would highlight the bold part as I completely agree with it (I also coincidentally mentioned it above before quoting you).
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    I currently live in the US South, grew up around Detroit, and lived in San Francisco for 5 years (late 60s, early 70s). I have always pronounced the second [a] as a schwa. I think in songs and jingles, as happens with many words, pronunciation gets distorted. This may happen as well with someone who is standing on a hill over the city, holding out his arms, and pronouncing each syllable separately and distinctly.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I live in the Bay Area, and I pronounce the two a's the same, with a short a. I've never heard it pronounced differently.
    I've now been here for 40 years and still have only ever heard the second a either as an a (short a = CAT vowel) or as a schwa ə but never a schwi (a schwa with a slight i sound :) (As noted, San Fran would have two short A's and mark the speaker as "not from around here" )
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I've heard it all those ways.

    With a short a, with an i-like sound and with a schwa. It's the same story as many words like that where the exact sound is so unimportant it falls along the entire range between those sounds, depending on the speaker, the sentence, the situation, the time of day ;) , etc.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I shall not post a link, but if you go to YouTube and search for "Dianne Feinstein speaks at the memorial service for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee", and go to minute 2:15 of the video, you can hear Dianne Feinstein say the city's name. Senator Feinstein was born in San Francisco, and was mayor from 1978 to 1988. Her pronunciation therefore seems qualified to be considered what San Franciscans say -- and as I listen to it, what I hear is "San Fruhncisco", with an "uh" schwa.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I shall not post a link, but if you go to YouTube and search for "Dianne Feinstein speaks at the memorial service for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee", and go to minute 2:15 of the video, you can hear Dianne Feinstein say the city's name. Senator Feinstein was born in San Francisco, and was mayor from 1978 to 1988. Her pronunciation therefore seems qualified to be considered what San Franciscans say -- and as I listen to it, what I hear is "San Fruhncisco", with an "uh" schwa.
    :thumbsup:
    I'll be keeping an ear out for the first occurrence of the i sound from a local, as my fifth decade in the Bay area looms :)
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Wow, lots of Bay Area folks here! I also grew up in the Bay and definitely use a schwa for the second a, except in the song. Or just call it 'the city."
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I hardly think one person can define the pronunciation of anything, no matter how many times they've said it. She's a data point, as good as any other but nothing more.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I hardly think one person can define the pronunciation of anything, no matter how many times they've said it. She's a data point, as good as any other but nothing more.
    I don't think it was proposed that "she defines" the pronunciation. I expect a whole range of pronunciations from those who don't live there, just like Poughkeepsie, Schenectady engender a range. Post #7 suggested that a schwa could be reprssrented by an i :eek: and perhaps a schwa is what posts #3 and 6 referred to.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I hardly think one person can define the pronunciation of anything, no matter how many times they've said it.
    I certainly never suggested any such thing, and cannot imagine why you think I did.

    She's a data point, as good as any other but nothing more.
    This is also not correct. If one wants to know how San Franciscans pronounce the name of their city, all "data points" (which would include listening to how people from London, or Madrid, or Beijing might say it) are not "as good as any other."
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I think I use the 'i' sound and the schwa-u sound somewhat interchangeably. Normal speech, probably the schwa-u sound. Emphasis on the city name, I would probably stress the "cisco" a little and use 'I". E.g. "He just bought a house for $300,000." "Where did he buy it." Me; San Francisco! (element of surprise because there are probably no houses than cheap anywhere in San Francisco).
     

    reno33

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Whenever I'm around people native or nearly native to SF, I always use the term 'frisco, mostly because of the reactions it engenders among the natives (and also because then I don't have to bother about how an "a" is pronounced......I just ignore the letter totally).
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Insofar as you can tell, are there any common pronunciations of the US city name "San Francisco" that don't contract the second vowel into a schwa?
    The answer to this question from the OP is an unequivocal yes.

    But that's hardly a surprise since it's an unstressed vowel. How many times do we have to learn that lesson.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There was no error. Her pedigree can't be topped is exactly the point. But she is still only one person.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Moderator note: I have closed this thread because the question has been answered. Nat
     
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