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Even after 50 years of almost daily chronicling of life in the metropolis he calls Baghdad by the Bay, newspaper columnist Herb Caen says San Francisco is still a marvelous place to write about.

"Like a snake, (San Francisco) sheds its skins, changes its shape, wanders off in unexpected directions. A hard city for sentimentalists, which most writers are," Caen wrote in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner, which devoted its feature section to recounting his years on the job.

Caen began writing his column for the Chronicle on July 5, 1938, at age 22. His journalism is mostly gossip; he mentions an average of 6,768 names a year.

Caen's column has given birth to endless phrases and puns that have worked their wa into everyday language on the West Coast.

These include the Muniserable Railway, in reference to the city's transit system; glums, the opposite of gays; the Golden Great Bridge; Hashbury, for the Haight-Ashbury district that was a marijuana haven in the 1960s; and Italian Swish Colony, his name for Finnochio's, a famous nightclub featuring female impersonators.