What Do You Call Yourself?

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I had a great conversation the other day with a woman who goes to school on the east coast. We were talking about Los Angeles in general — what outsiders think of LA, our reputation for being shallow and fake, our lack of community as a whole city, lame public transit, etc etc. We’ve heard it all before. But the one thing that she mentioned that gave me pause was how we Los Angelites refer to ourselves. I realized that only within the last six months or so have I started referring to myself as an Angeleno.

When you talk with non Angelenos about where you are from, what do you say? Do you say you are from Los Angeles or do you say you are from (insert LA neighborhood here)? Do you say you are an Angeleno (as a New Yorker would say “New Yorker”) or do you merely say you “live in Los Angeles”? Does it depend on how long you’ve lived here? Does it depend on your level of love or hate for this city? And how do you feel about how you refer to yourself? Proud? Indifferent? Self-loathing?

I finally LOVE Los Angeles and I’m proud to call myself an Angeleno (after about 20 years here). I used to say the city was like a step-family I liked very much, but now it’s full-blood family that I love.

Let’s hear your title.

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30 Replies to “What Do You Call Yourself?”

  1. After almost four years here (and 27 in NYC) I still call myself a New Yorker, or a former New Yorker but that makes me sound like I’m dead. Not that I hate LA; I like it fine. There are things about it I love and hate but the balance has been shifting more towards the former as time passes. To me, Angeleno is still a pejorative term I mutter to myself when someone ticks me off. But that’s the New Yorker in me talking.

  2. I’ve lived here my whole life. And in that time, I’ve never referred to myself as an “Angeleno.” I don’t think I’ve ever said the word “Angeleno” out loud.

    When people ask me where I’m from, I say “Los Angeles.” There was a time when I’d say “the South Bay,” but one can only explain “no, not San Francisco” through clenched teeth so many times before resorting to the most general of answers.

    I do manage to say “Los Angeles” with such a level of condescension that it’s made clear to inquirers that because of my birthplace, my time is inherently much more valuable than theirs, and that any further questions should be directed towards my publicist.

  3. I say “I’m from Los Angeles” also. I don’t know why, but “Angeleno” seems super pretentious to me. When I lived in Denver, I never said “I’m a Denverite,” and I doubt I would ever call myself a “New Yorker” either.

  4. I call myself an Angeleno. I was born here.

    I’m starting to hear “Angeleno” more often as people describe themselves (especially in print and on the blogs) — but it used to be like saying “the Southland,” which is something you only hear on the 5 o’clock news.

  5. amen, Thunderboltfan; I am forever being berated by my friends and colleagues for my daily employment of “Angelino” (I usta spell it “Anegleno,” but I was corrected by the Angelinos) as a four-lettre word spat out in four syllables.
    I never thought of “former”–as you state it–being commensurate with being dead, but once out of the city–or even the boros–I must concur that your perspective is acute, even if anger is my engine as I walk teh streets of downtown Los Angeles with a fashion that has me stopping every few hundred feet to peel the Angelinos from the bottom of my Allen Edmonds. (What they call walking here, I cannot help but call wandering.)
    In any case, I have to admit that, unlike the lineage of New York–which can be traced back through London to Paris–Los Angeles should understand that if it is to be a city, cohesion as an implicit facet of the definition of a metropolis should be eliminated. I could go into the history of the apartment building boom of New York (18802-1930s, a period which Edith Wharton chronicled with great flavour) and how all of that is even now being played out in Brooklyn (Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Sunset Park and the surrounding nabes), and how all of that has something to do with what is happening here and now in Glendale and, say, Sunland-Tujunga (and will be happening in Van Nuys, if one is aware of the demographic shift as well as the real estate markets), but I will refrain. I would love if downtown could pull itself up by its bootstraps and BE a real downtown despite Hollywood and all the sandal-wearing trust-fund-kiddies and the lack of public transit.
    Some folk will surely balk at my comments and attitude, so lemme state this one defining remark:
    “What’s in a name?”
    and answer: EVERYTHING.

  6. Through a combination of being born here and having family spread throughout the state, I consider myself formally a Californian. Informally, I call myself a local.

  7. Depends on who I’m talking to. If they know the area, then I say I’m from Compton, if not, then I’m from Los Angeles.

    Never use any ‘ino though. Although Latino Angelino sounds t-shirty.

    I think the great part of Los Angeles is the very fact that the cement never settles. There’s something really appealing to me about the intagibilty of LA. You can’t find Hollywood in Hollywood, and you can’t find LA in LA. It’s ephemeral.

    “City of Quartz” is a great book that really breaks down what makes up LA and where it may be going.

  8. Outside the US, I tell people I am from Los Angeles. It’s better than saying you’re an American. When in France the response is generally to me if I know Micki Rourke. In Mexico, the response is usually ask me if I want to buy pot or coke.

    Closer to home, I say I grew up in Glendale and now I live in the Valley. It’s the northern part of LA where non-fake people live.

    If you really grew up here, you’ll never call yourself an Angeleno. Only newscasters use that word. There is no such neighborhood as Los Angeles. That’s like people who say they are from the “Bay Area.” Can you be a little more specific please?

  9. Edraid,

    I agree that “City of Quartz” is a damn good book. (Full disclosure: one of Mike Davis’ former students is one on my clientele, in that I am responsible for the design and copy editing of “Ancient L.A.” To boot, I was in downtown, of sorts, the day the 1992 riots erupted, owing to my desire to attend a Subhumans show.)

    You comment, “the cement never settles,” is a brilliant metaphor.

  10. I disagree that no one born here would call themselves an Angeleno. Especially for the younger generations, who are yearning for this civic identity, it’s been taken on as a label.

  11. I’m in Boston for college, so I’ve done this a lot recently. I always say “I’m from Los Angeles” and when pressed or speaking to a local, I’ll respond “South Gate.” Some know where it is, others don’t, but it’s all good.

    South Gate’s in my heart. LA is on my head.

  12. When I lived in San Francisco I called myself a “Franciscan”. People kept kneeling and calling me father so I moved to Los Angeles.

    I’m with you 5000, Angeleno is kinda goofy.

  13. From my experience, the reputation for “shallow and fake” applies only to the entertainment industry.

  14. 5000!, Saying you are a New Yorker isn’t so much saying where you’re from; it’s saying who you are in terms of superior intelligence, taste and attitude. I mean, really.

  15. 5000!, Saying you are a New Yorker isn’t so much saying where you’re from; it’s saying who you are in terms of superior intelligence, taste and attitude. I mean, really.

    That seems to be the consensus. Among New Yorkers that is. ;)

  16. Never called myself an Angeleno. If it comes up in conversation I’ll just say I’m from Los Angeles then inevitably the follow up will be “Were you born here?” And I’ll answer with “Yup, a native.” Then just for kix sometimes I’ll reference the line in “Double Indemnity” when Phyllis tells Walter she was born “right here in Los Angeles” and Walter responds with “They say all native Californians come from Iowa.”

  17. People I’ve just met more often than not ask what I am or what my ethnicity is.

    Most people talking to me kind of know I’m from LA. That’s what I say too.

  18. I never say “Angeleno” but I never say “I live in Los Angeles” either. I say “I’m from Los Angeles”.

    I work in the city but don’t actually live in Los Angeles. I never say where I live. Los Angeles is recognizable enough. I want to keep conversations to a minimum. And nobody really cares about the little city I live in anyway.

  19. I say I’m from Pasadena, because most people have heard of it.. when I lived in lesser known communities (like Hacienda Hts), I said “LA.”

  20. I don’t really attach my identity to my city, even though I love living here. Like many other people from LA, I’ve never called myself an Angeleno or used it to describe others. If people ask where I’m from, and I know they mean location (I hear ya, Darleene) I say LA and qualify it with where I grew up, Hacienda Heights.

  21. If I start to hear the hating, I preempt it with the statement that I am a passionate LA-O-phile.

    Here at home? A proud Denizen of Silverlake or a Los Felizian, aka, one of The Happys.

  22. When I was a kid growing up in LA never once heard the term Angeleno, that’s a eastcoater term. I’ve always found people who referred to themselves as Angelenos 100% certain they weren’t born here and 90% they didn’t get here before they were 18.

    (I agree that people under 21 may do it, but it is because they are brainwashed and stupid and would actually embrace a label some dirty New Yorker probably came up with. No offense BusTard, but why do New Yorkers always have to give every thing an official label.)

    I’ve always called myself a LA girl. I actually grew up in LA. Los Feliz to be exact. When I was younger and more obnoxious I would refer to myself as an “eastsider,” but now as I near 30 (Feb 1, give me gifts) I realize LA girl or possibly LA woman is the best way to describe me.

    Browne

  23. It depends who is asking, and where we are:
    Person in L.A., standing with me in L.A. “I’m from Rancho Park, but I currently live in Torrance”
    Person in California, standing with me outside of L.A. “I’m from L.A.”
    Person in another state “I’m from L.A.” them: “Oooohhh! Disneyland!”
    Person in New York “I’m from L.A.” them: “eeewwwww”
    I never call myself an Angelino, but I call others that, so I guess I am one too.

  24. 5000-

    Were I from Denver, I would answer “Canada” to the question under review.

    As for the bit about “New Yorker,” well, you are from Denver. Get back to taking snapshots from parking structures atop shopping malls, and perhaps in a few years you might make it up to being merely an Angelino.

  25. Oh, and Rachel:

    I agree that Mike Davis’ book offered some errors. Then again, how could anyone imagine that Dick, Jasper and the original Subhumans (UK, that is; not the later canadians) would be playing the very evening that the second set of L.A. race riots sparked?
    To be sure, Mr. Davis was better off than the politicians and other schmucks who should seen it coming.

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