A South Bronx By Any Other Name

September 26th, 2010 by Kahliah Laney

Triangle Below Canal Street just doesn’t roll off the tongue like TriBeCa. But keeping up with New York neighborhood nomenclature, like SoHo, NoLita, and NoHo, despite their fluidity, can be bothersome. So what do South Bronx natives think about SoBro?

Sometimes, the abbreviation is practical; North of Little Italy (NoLita) is a mouthful. But more recently abridged names symbolize swank, exclusive, enclaves moving into historically cast out communities. So when artists’ lofts began cropping up in the South Bronx, a marker of newly acquired hipness wasn’t far behind. Many migrants of means might think SoBro is posh. Some natives just say it’s pestering, paltry and political.

What South Bronx Natives Think About SoBro from Kahliah Laney on Vimeo.

This sometimes annoying, phonetic phenomenon isn’t unique to New York. In Atlanta, calling the Buford Highway BuHi has some so annoyed they’re yelping about it. In San Francisco a blogger highlighted the “hysteria” associated with a number of play-on-names including FerBu (Ferry Building) and DUCFOP (Down Under the Central Freeway Overpass).

While some folks find this kind of name-tailoring taxing, others welcome the moniker makeovers. In Fresno, CA, residents in the neighborhood south of Tower District were eager to represent SoTow. Still, as emphatically as some embrace neighborhood name changes, others oppose. The Medici Foundation said no way to the adoption of NoLita though the name seems to have stuck.

So what’s really in a name? Shakespeare, in “Romeo and Juliet,” wrote, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Does that mean that South Bronx would, were it SoBro called, retain it’s gritty nature? Most likely, as some early settlers of the recently revitalized Park Slope found out.

But it seems these nifty little names are here to stay. Calling the South Bronx SoBro is apparently accepted enough that it’s included in Urban Dictionary. A 2008 academic study about the South Bronx directly linked the advent of SoBro to gentrification.  Call it the South Bronx or SoBro one thing is for sure, the neighborhood is changing whether people like it or not.

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