The Great Karl Debate: Here’s Why 70% Of SF Residents Prefer ‘Karl The Fog’

Jamie Ferrell Jamie Ferrell

The Great Karl Debate: Here’s Why 70% Of SF Residents Prefer ‘Karl The Fog’

We polled almost 700 people on Facebook and Instagram.

The marine layer that settles over the Bay Area is arguably just as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge. Many a tourist has arrived in our beautiful city, ready to take in the dramatic ocean views and iconic skyline. That is, until they realize that NorCal doesn’t necessarily follow the sunny weather patterns of its southern counterpart. 

Karl, as the fog has come to be known, is somewhat of a friendly nuisance around these parts. But not everyone is a fan of the name.

On Wednesday, January 28th, we posted polls on the Secret San Francisco Facebook and Instagram pages to get to the bottom of some crucial questions: What do we call the SF fog, and why do some people hate Karl? 

The results are in, and after 24 hours, we have our answer:

A total of 674 people voted in our polls. On Facebook, 29 people were in favor of naming the fog Karl and 20 were against it. On Instagram, 448 people were in favor and 177 against. That comes out to 70.7% on Team Karl, and 29.3% on Team It’s Just Fog.

But where did Karl come from?

An anonymous Twitter account christened the Bay Area fog “Karl” back in 2010, taking inspiration from the giant, friendly monster in the 2003 film Big Fish. The Twitter account @KarlTheFog has since amassed over 350,000 followers. An Instagram account by the same name has 250,000. Countless weather presenters and SF residents affectionately refer to the fog as Karl.

In January of 2020, Karl the Fog went silent on Twitter and Instagram. In his place, a new Twitter user, @KarlaTheFog, introduced herself this past October and began taking over Karl’s old foggy duties.


Some more long-term SF residents don’t necessarily approve of Karl/Karla’s origin story. “Lived here for my whole life 38 years, don’t know anyone who talks about it or calls it Karl,” wrote one Instagram follower in response to our story. “You should ask those Karl folk how many of them are Bay natives,” said another.

On Facebook, we saw a similar discussion: “Call it fog. Never had a name, never will. Love, a proud member of 4 generations of SF natives.” “Umm it’s just fog. Either it’s ‘Foggy’ or it’s ‘Hella foggy.’ #dasit.” 

Of course, many people are fans of Karl the Fog, and they said so: “People who dislike it are no fun,” wrote one. “Lived my whole life here, it’s a cute nickname get off your high horses!” wrote another.

San Francisco is a city largely consisting of transplants from other parts of California, the US, and the world. The resulting gentrification and skyrocketing rent prices are devastating to many who grew up there, making them somewhat loath to incorporate new terms generally used by outsiders. Some Instagram followers validated this sentiment: “I just feel that naming the fog Karl is gentrification,” said one. “Gentrification terminology never heard of it until recent and I been here all my life,” said another.

Californians in general take their slang quite seriously, and nicknames like “San Fran” and “Frisco” are strictly blacklisted from most residents’ vocabulary. But Karl the Fog may be slipping through the cracks – after all, 70% of our followers are fans of the name. 

So, are you on Team Karl ? 


[Featured Image: Corey Agopian via Unsplash]

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