New York Times Calls South Boston ‘SoBo’

Stop that.


The New York Times is well known for declaring specious trends where no trend exists—men are wearing more high heels! Everyone is networking in spin classes and they’re calling it “sweatworking”Everyone is getting blitzed and doing their online shopping! (Fine, so that one has some truth.) Was it in this spirit that the Times reported today on a hot new Boston neighborhood known as “SoBo”? From the Times’s coverage of the Whitey Bulger trial:

Though Mr. Bulger’s reign in South Boston ended almost two decades ago — and the gritty Southie of his era has morphed into SoBo and is now overrun with yuppies and glassy condos — people here are still gripped by his story.”

SoBo? God, what is with New Yorkers and their compulsive need to assume there’s a clever abbreviation for everything. SoHo? UES? NoHo? TriBeCa? Chumbo? DoWiSiTrePla? In corners of the Boston-based internet, people are pointing out that “SoBo” doesn’t strike the ear as something that people commonly say to each other in these parts. “Oh, I live in SoBo.” “We’re opening an office in SoBo.” “There’s this great new restaurant in SoBo!” No, that just doesn’t work.

Weirdly, the Times isn’t the first major newspaper this week to imply that the yuppies have adopted “SoBo” en masse as the hip new name for their ‘hood. The Associated Press made the same claim on Monday:

“Southie,” as it’s been called by generations of natives, is now called “Sobo” by newcomers who live there.

“It’s not my neighborhood anymore. It’s New Yorkish,” said Scott Clark, a 47-year-old plumber who is a lifelong resident of South Boston. “It’s just not what I’m used to.”

Hold on, two reporters have independently suggested that “SoBo” is a thing. Are we missing something? Is it a thing?  No, no, that’s the logic that launched a thousand New York Times trend stories.

In fact, the Boston Globe itself reported back in 2005 that “SoBo,” along with EaBo, NoCo, and other groan-inducing abreves, was mostly the innovation of developers and real estate agents riding the tide of a real estate boom. Others who tried to take up the moniker didn’t fare so well:

In the late 1990s, on the cusp of the yuppie invasion of South Boston, restaurateur Jae Chung opened SoBo, a chic Asian restaurant next to the Boston Athletic Club. It closed after a year-and-a-half.

”We were ahead of our time, I think,” he said.

So yes, technically some people who are invested in the rising price of real estate in South Boston have, in the past, referred to it as SoBo. You are not wrong there, New York Times. But  there’s a fairly good sign that while there may be pockets of yuppies trying to make it happen, it hasn’t quite caught on in Boston more broadly: The mere mention of it in the Times has prompted local news sites from Universal Hub to to raise their eyebrows in confusion. “Everybody who calls South Boston SoBo please raise your hands – and then buy yourself a one-way ticket to New York,” UHub’s Adam Gaffin writes.

I think that’s pronounced NeYoCi, Adam.

  • Ed Schweibacher

    You’ve just used what seems to be a clever abbreviation for the words “they are”. So there. (Paragraph 1, line 2, word 12. [cf. Line 3 word 8.])

    (from a native NYer)

    • sean

      That’s a contraction, not an abbreviation

    • Eric Randall

      Yeah that was fair. Fixed it though.

  • Mark Pasciscia

    Nobody from Boston would ever call South Boston anything but “Southie.” -Boston area native

  • suneelji

    Do you have “NoBo”, “EaBo” and “WeBo” as well ?

    • Karen Goldman

      NoBo would be the North End, EaBo would be Eastie and WeBo would be the West End. And if you try to use any other monikers, us Bostonians would not know what the hell you were talking about.

      • suneelji

        As posted earlier the English Press over here(Mumbai, Maharashtra, India ) seems have resentment against change of name from Bombay to Mumbai, done in 1995. Sooooo it appears to have introduced the Acronym “SoBo” instead of “SoMu” for South Mumbai sometime in 2006. So just wanted to know whether the resentment would drive them to coin few more acronyms such as NoBo,WeBo,CeBo,EaBo, well, in future.

  • suneelji

    One would be surprised to know that the English Press (which includes Times of India, the old lady ) in Mumbai (India) also sometimes refers “South Mumbai” as “SoBo” instead of “SoMu”.
    Renaming of cities in India started in 1947, following the end of the British imperial period in India, and continues today. Accordingly the
    name of our city was changed officially from “BOMBAY” to “MUMBAI” way back in 1995. The English press (perhaps still thinking that India will once again become colony of Little Briton) seems to resent this change as they have started calling “ South Mumbai “ as “SoBo (acronym for “South Bombay” )from 2006. Actually the correct acronym should be “SoMu”.

  • cottonmadder

    Or we can just call it the world’s largest Audi dealership. Better yet, northern most nabe of the tri-state.