Los Angeles: What’s in a name?


Someone (cannot remember who at the moment) once remarked on the lack of historical memory in our city and used the example of how we’ve taken our original city name, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula and reduced it down to the abbreviated: L.A. It’s sort of telling and profound, no?
At one point in my life, I ceased using the term L.A. and switched to Los Angeles. At least for myself, a fourth generation Angelena, I felt that I should acknowledge the history of the city by using the official name.
How about you dear Eastside readers? What is your term of choice for our fair city? El Lay? Tongvaville? Trafficstan? Chalinotitlan?

21 thoughts on “Los Angeles: What’s in a name?

  1. I say Los Angeles, or when I’m feeling up to it I’ll use El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles minus the “del Río de Porciúncula” part.

    I don’t know, I feel like some kind tourist saying L.A.

  2. Awwww…(to Jimmy and ERH)
    Cris, you’re my hero!
    DJ, I can’t bring my self to say “Pedro”. I feel like it’s a locals only thing. I do pronounce it Pee-dro since everyone else does.
    I always forget too what the common pronunciation of Los Feliz is so I just say it in Spanish.
    Has anyone ever noticed how some British people say Los Angeles? It’s something like Los Angle-eese.

  3. I say Los Angeles when referring to this city. Every now & then I’ll use the correct Spanish pronunciation and sometimes I’ll even use a twangy, Texan accent and call it Los AHN-GUH-LEEZ (because it’s funny). But I’ve also been noted on my use of the elongated-vowel abbreviated version “EEEHL-LAAAAYH.”

    And it’s funny when people ask me, “but in what city do you really live in?” and I say “Right IN Los Angeles!” not one of those outlying cities.

    And I think the “PROPER” pronunciation of Los Feliz much to my chagrin is not “Los Felíz” (which wouldn’t be “the happy ones” since that would be Los Felíces”) but really “Los Feliz” with the accent on the “e.” I think it’s a family name.

  4. I use LA to refer to the idea that people have of the giant, ugly, plastic, city that people everywhere seem to hate. I live in Los Angeles, you know, the real place most outside folks don’t even know exists.

  5. I use the oldest recorded name I’ve researched .. “Yang Na”…. but then people look at me funny and I tell them in Spanish “Los Angeles”, (sometimes I still get funny looks, especially on the east coast- NYC), and when traveling abroad to non spanish speaking places, I say in english “L.A”, and if they are confused as to where L.A. is exactly, I just tell them “next to hollywood where all the fake people live” or “by Disneyland near Mickey Mouse’s house” =D!

  6. East los is the city I was born and raised in (4th/soto st)so East Los it is….she has taught me so much! Yeah, we can get all academic with the exact geographic break downs of borders & what have ya…but the borders were not always there, just like the bridges….the only ugly stuff is what/when people take history/herstory that is not theirs….we can\’t forget the history of this sacred land,and we can\’t keep tearing down what belongs here! So to all of the corporate greedy fools who keep tryin…go back to your home & build your cookie cutter towns. We are proud of being different & we embrace it here!
    Que viva East Los!

  7. I cringe when I see ads or references to Los Angeles as “City of Angels”—ay, see?—just then, I shuddered.

  8. My long-gone grandmother was from Minnesota, lived most of her life in Eagle Rock (from around 1910 until well into the 1980s). For her, it was Los Angle-es (without the eese sound). I like that, though I soften the g, myself. Los Angeles is more respectful to this beautiful place than is “L.A.”

  9. I am not an Angeleno, merely a frequent visitor who (despite previous biases) has learned to love the city–especially Lincoln Heights–thanks to my very good friends there (Chimatli and El Chavo). I must confess that outside of Los Angeles, when I tell friends that I am going there, I usually call it LA, out of sheer laziness. but in my mind, LA refers to the whole metropolitan area, Los Angeles to the city proper. And for those who know, I will say that I am going to Lincoln Heights, since that is where I always stay when I am in town. Though I don’t live there, due to Chimatli’s and El Chavo’s friendship, it does feel like a home to me…

  10. apio’s distinctions are sensible. I grew up in Eagle Rock, have been away for many years, now in Cambridge. still, I say Los Angeles usually. old maps show little towns or developers’ concepts: I like those old names. Tropico. or down there in present-day Glassell Park : Gaston, Threemile House, Bennington, Jeffrey, Morgan…

    p.s., this site has an amazingly smart vocabulary of anti-spam words! “detourn” indeed !

  11. The original Spanish name of the pueblo was simply “la Reyna de Los Angeles”, i.e., “the Queen of the Angels.”

    The “el Pueblo de” part is simply a description of the type of settlement (i.e., a pueblo, an agricultural settlement designed to support a nearby mission – in this case, the mission at San Gabriel), much the way we would say “the city of Los Angeles” today.

    The “Nuestra Señora” part is an interpolation by later historical writers, which was not present in the original name bestowed by the founders.

    And “del Río de Porciúncula” (and variant forms like “sobre el Río de la Porciúncula”) is just a description of the pueblo’s location near the river Porciúncula.

    (The river was named for the Porziuncola, a church on a “small portion” of land – porziuncola in Italian – outside the town of Asissi in Italy, where St. Francis founded the Franciscan order.)

    For full details and documentation, see “Los Angeles, California: The Question of the City’s Original Spanish Name” by Theodore B. Treutlein, in The Founding Documents of Los Angeles: a Bilingual Edition, ed. Doyce B. Nunis, available at many branches of the Los Angeles Public Library.

  12. I always say ‘Los Angeles’ but what’s funny is if you say ‘East Los Angeles’ people always say ‘where?’ especially on the westside. So now when I tell people where I live, I say, “East L.A. Proper”. or sometimes, ‘90022’ but nobody gets that.

  13. city of angels? lol, its a trip everytime someone says that or when i read it. They should go down to the callejones and see if they really think this is a city of angels. anyhow, i call it LA when im somewhere else, people identify with that term much easier than Los Angeles but I call it Los Angeles when im home. Im from hawthorne and people never know where the fuck is hawthorne. FYI by the LAX lol
    thats my point of reference

  14. I’m a fourth generation Angeleno who has lived out of state for years. I always consider myself an Angeleno, even though I was born in Downey and grew up in South Whittier and Norwalk. As far as the birth thing goes, the moment I was born at Rio Hondo Memorial (just across the street from Pico Rivera) they rushed me to L.A. General Hospital, so I was ALMOST born in East L.A.

    That said, I say Los Angeles. Not El Lay. When I haved lived in Los Angeles-proper (Downtown, Westlake Park, Koreatown) I noticed that all of the locals used Los Angeles, leaving “L.A.” for the transplants from New Jersey and Detroit, etc. It’s sort of like San Franciscans getting riled when a tourist calls their city “Frisco.” People say, “Are you from L.A.?” I say, “Yes. I AM from Los Angeles.” When I lived in Santa Ana, though, I loved to get Orange Countians mad by saying, “Yeah, here in L.A., we…” “This isn’t L.A., this is ORANGE COUNTY.” they’d scream. And then they’d act like Los Angeles county is 200 miles away from their sacred orange groves. Ha ha!

  15. I have copy of a very old document found in my fathers files. I will try to find it. I think it was a copy of something like an incorporation document for LA. I am fairly sure the city name was: El Pueblo de Nuestra Virgen la Riena de los Ángeles.

    Over the years (beginning about 1928) Dad did some legal work involving Spanish land grants, etc. I think that’s when he found the paper.

    In any case, it wasn’t the city of the angels, it was the city of Mary, mother of Jesus.

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