polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

What’s in a Name?

by Katia Savchuk

Since the late 19th century, the word "tenderloin" has been used to describe a "district of a city largely devoted to vice." Apparently, the name comes from allegations that corrupt police in a seedy Manhattan district could afford a nice piece of meat.

The Tenderloin is still the official name of a dense downtown San Francisco neighborhood characterized by high rates of poverty, homelessness, crime and drug use. It also remains one of the few affordable neighborhoods for low-income renters, especially immigrants, and is home to many artists and writers.

It is slightly unbelievable in our politically correct culture that a neighborhood's official name can basically mean "bad, seedy area." I wonder if this moniker has been more than descriptive and had an effect on the area's development by pigeon-holing it.

Now that trendy bars and restaurants are popping up in the Tenderloin and urban renewal efforts are under way, I wonder if the name will have a lasting effect or become an amusing anachronism.

Credits: Photos of the Tenderloin from Dizzy Atmosphere.

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