UPDATED: New Merchant Association: “We Don’t Know What to Call It Yet, But It Will Certainly Not Be La Lengua”

Well, this is awkward.

The initial seed of discontentment over the nomenclature used to describe the flat portion of the Dominion of Bernalwood along Mission Street has now become an outright counter-rebellion. MissionLocal reports that business-owners along Bernal’s Mission corridor are in the process of creating a merchant’s association, and the group’s first task is to settle upon a name for the area that is something other than “La Lengua”:

Every revolution has its line-in-the-sand moment. For one architect south of Cesar Chavez, the moment came when locals — and even allegedly some city officials — started using “some hipster name” to refer to the neighborhood: La Lengua.

That translates to “The Tongue” in English, and it left a bad taste in the merchants’ mouths. In fact, they are forming their own merchants association — first meeting today — to rebrand themselves and define their commercial interests in the microhood where Bernal Heights and the outer edges of the Mission meet.

“That stupid name really got everyone listening,” said Harlan Hoffman, an architect with an office and a building on Mission Street, who is one of the main members of the association’s formation committee. “In a good way, that kind of spurred us on, and we decided to go ahead with this plan.”

Harlan Hoffman goes on to say:

 “It’s not the Inner Mission, it’s not the Outer Mission — it’s its own thing,” Hoffman said. “We don’t know what to call it yet, but it will certainly not be La Lengua.”

See? Ouch. Awwwwwwkwaaaaaard.

Since the disputed area is, and always shall be, an integral part of the Dominion of Bernalwood, we have no stake in the nomenclature controversy, except to treat it is a local matter that requires local resolution among the indigenous people.

However, we would remind the merchants in the disputed region that there is precedent for what they seek to accomplish, as Bernalwood revealed in this old storefront decal:

Hiding in plain sight on a vacant Mission Street storefront just north of 30th Street, [Neighbor Ben] found a vintage decal which pledges fealty to the “South of Army – Mission Merchants Association.”

Who were these proto-La Lenguans? What can we infer about the people who roamed the flatlands in the days before Army Street became Cesar Chavez Boulevard? The decal’s intimation that “He Knows You – You Know Him” suggests they were a paternalistic tribe that was closely bound by kinship ties and sharply-defined notions of geographic solidarity.

Unfortunately, since Army Street is indeed now called Cesar Chavez, the new merchants association is unlikely to embrace its historic antecedent in toto — which is sort of too bad, because that old graphic is ridiculously fabulous. (Memo to Secession Design: That logo. On a t-shirt. PLEASE!)

Bernalwood has reached out to rebel spokesblogger Burrito Justice, leader of the La Lenguan autonomy movement, for comment on this matter. He promised to release a statement soon, but in the meantime, his activity on Twitter suggests there will be more to come in the days ahead:



UPDATE: 1/14/14, 10 am: Burrito Justice has released a statement, and meme-ready image, regarding the burgeoning nomenclature controversy:

Harlan, here’s what you don’t get — La Lengua doesn’t care what you think. La Lengua just… is. We didn’t try very hard, and La Lengua took off. We are having fun.

You seem angry, Harlan. But the more you try to hate on La Lengua, the stronger it will become.


30 thoughts on “UPDATED: New Merchant Association: “We Don’t Know What to Call It Yet, But It Will Certainly Not Be La Lengua”

  1. Sometimes you choose a name; sometimes a name chooses you. Terribly sorry, La Lenguan merchants.

    It does seem odd, though, to have the heart and tongue connected as they are in that map.

  2. I remember seeing some flyers posted on the old Odeon Bar (now the Knockout), referring to it as the Deep Mission. Always kind of liked that.

  3. Sounds like Burrito Justice is nothing but a bully when it comes to other voices and other opinions. Let the merchants decide and keep out of it BJ!

    • Noemonkey, I’d suggest spending 5 minutes actually learning about how that name came to be. And no, the merchants don’t get to decide what to call a neighborhood — the residents do.

      • Actually, I don’t care where the name came from. I said nothing about liking or disliking the name. It’s not my business, nor the business of BJ. Let the merchants AND residents decide. And honestly, what’s with the constant obsession of naming or renaming every quirky little bit of neighborhood in SF? In reality, this little triangle of land really IS The Mission. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing.

  4. I’m not a small business person, but if a bunch of people who spend money at your businesses already call your neighborhood La Lengua, and if lots of people already know what La Lengua is, then it’s throwing away good money to change it rather than embrace it. Maybe Tongue is so unattractive to a more Anglo-based anti-body culture, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be a problem to many people with a rich cultural heritage who have lived in the area for a very long time. The revulsion to it has a bit of “elitist” overtone to me. (Yes, elitist is a euphemism for a much more inflammatory term.)

    Maybe it would be best for the merchants to put aside their own opinions and ask the folks in the neighborhood 1. What they call their neighborhood when they tell people where they live and 2. Provide a short-list of currently known names for it and have them gage their reaction to them. It would be fascinating to see the demographic breakdown of who hates and likes “La Lengua”.

    As a mostly white gay man in his 50s I was delighted to hear the name (actually see it on google maps) and quick to adopt it. It’s lyrical, it speaks of food, it indicates a cultural heritage, and it is visually indicative of the geographic shape of the neighborhood. Geez, what more could you ask for.

    Better than be called La Pinga, sí?

    • Its a stupid and offensive name to anyone who speaks spanish. I grew up in the neighborhood and I can tell u everyone thinks its a dumb fucking name. Who the fuck is this burrito justice clown? He has a picture of Zapata as an avatar and he calls himself BURRITO JUSTICE! !! What kind of condescending racist bullshit is that? ?? Look buddy lengua is retarded everyone calls it bernal heights or the upper mission thats just what it is…..fuck hipsters

      • yes yes yes bernal heights.nothing but – no one gave a crap what it was called when all we had was a burger king and safeway….

  5. Noemonkey, I don’t understand why it’s up to the merchants to decide. Granted they can call their business organization anything they please, but it doesn’t mean that the folks who live and frequent the neighborhood will/should ever concede to a rebranding based strictly on what the businesses perceive is best for their business.

  6. maybe Hoffman would prefer SoCes (pronounced like “sauces”), jumping off from the former South of Army merchants association? 😉

    • At one time there was a drive for “SoCha” (South of Caesar Chavez), and there was even a (now-defunct) SoCha cafe.

  7. Dear Bernalwood,

    I don’t think they should get to name it. La Lengua came first. It gets to stay. Maybe we like it that it’s an awkward, kind of dirty, kind of awesome, not too hip, not too lame, way too bumpy little strip of San Francisco. There aren’t many left these days. Leave it be. We don’t want another Valencia. How would you like it if someone came along and said that your name sounded stupid and just changed it?

    Bernal lover and wannabe neighbor in “El Corazon”, Jordan

  8. So Odd. I wonder why the name of the neighborhood makes him so angry. Is it because it’s in Spanish?

    • WIN. I’m a big fan of La Lengua, always have been. So much better than the name I used growing up a few blocks up the hill to the West, which was something like “down on Mission”, as in “Let’s go get new Dickes at the Ben Davis store down on Mission.”

      Sometimes I’d add the coordinate: e.g., “the Taco Loco at Mission and 29th” or the “30th and Mission grocer.” Imagine how productive I could have been if I’d simply been allowed to use La Lengua!

  9. Et tu, merchants association? This is the sort of thing I expect from real estate firms, not local businesses. You even suggest some ridiculous CamelCase portmanteau and you’re gettin’ one of GG’s stickers slapped on your door.

    Call me cynical, but I can’t shake the feeling that some people don’t like the name La Lengua because it in their backwards minds, they equate it as sounding too low rent.

  10. And of course the fact that all four iconic SF images used the “South of Army – Mission Merchants Association” logo were/are North of Army is reason enough to take neighborhood naming and imaging rights away from the merchant class, and to place them in the hands of the indigenous masses and their de facto representatives.

  11. According to the Secretary of State, the South of Army Mission Merchants Association is located at 33 – 29th Street. Its corporate status is “suspended.” It was incorporated 2/2/1948 and Nina B. Pellegrini is the agent for service of process. Her address is 3264 Mission Street.

    Too bad Army Street isn’t still Army Street. the acroynm for “south of Army” would be SoAr.

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  13. i find it interesting that a strip of mission street hertofore out of the loop until recently- has become a topic of concern among who? i’ve been here for 36 years and it’s always been Bernal Heights – does anyone know who named that strip la lengua? i suspect it was an industrious real estate agent wishing to extend the cache of the new tech workers to parts of bernal heights
    and why am i a racist if i don’t like the name la lengua? it doesn’t sound any better in english. “down on mission” is a direction not a name.
    breaking neighborhoods up into micro-neighborhoods for the purpose of separating it from the whole should be manufactured by the group of people who are affected. since la lengua is a recently created name another one can surely take it’s place with enough buzz. surely a merchants association is acutely aware of the importance of its’ identity.

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