Easterners have the odd practice of referring to California as “the Coast,” as if New York, Boston and Washington were not on a coast of their own. In its headlines a certain East Coast daily that is published in New York uses “Coast” to mean California or Los Angeles or anything in these general environs. So Tom Bradley comes out as “Coast Mayor,” National Semiconductor Corp. of Santa Clara is a “Coast Chip Maker,” and a fellow from San Francisco accused of selling secrets to the Russians is a “Coast Spy Suspect.”
Some people we know think that this locution implies a slight putdown of the West Coast, the usual mixture of jealousy and condescension that Easterners apply to the West. It’s the verbal equivalent of that much-copied New Yorker cover that shows the world effectively ending at the Hudson River. Actually, there’s a simpler explanation: “Coast” is a short word, the kind that headline writers adore. “California” is too long, and “L.A.” and “S.F.,” which are short, are not permitted in a newspaper that shuns abbreviations.
It is also true that, to New Yorkers, New York is “the city” and California is “out on the Coast.” They haven’t come to terms with the fact that the center of gravity of the country has shifted, that 1 in 10 Americans lives in California and that the East is as much the Coast as the West is.