Today marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of the city of Chicago, or it’s “Dodransbicentennial”.
In honor of that milestone, I submit the following glossary of terms, a Chicago to English translation…
1. Grachki (grach’-key): Chicagoese for “garage
key” as in, “Yo, Theresa, waja do wit da grachki?
Howmy supposta cut da grass if I don’t git intada
2. Sammich: Chicagoese for sandwich. When made
with sausage, it’s a sassage sammich; when made
with marinated beef, it’s an Italian Beef sammich,
a local delicacy consisting of piles of almost absurdly
delicious meat in a perilously soggy bun (also known
as simply “a beef-” and available “dry” as well-
meaning with a less soggy bun- REW)
3. Da: The definite article, a key part of Chicago
speech, as in “Da Bears” or “Da Mare” — the latter
denoting the Hon. Richard M. Daley, or Richie, as he’s
4. Jewels: Not family heirlooms or a tender body
region, but a popular name for one of the region’s
dominant grocery store chains. “I’m goin’ to Jewels
to pick up some sassage.”
5. Field’s: Marshall Field, a prominent Chicago
department store. Carson Pirie Scott, another
major department store chain, is simply called
6. Tree: The number between two and four. “We
were lucky dat we only got tree inches of snow da
7. Over by dere: Translates to “over by there,” a
way of indicating a site presumed familiar to the
listener, as in, “I got the sassage at Jewels down on
Kedzie, over by dere.” (“By” is a term meaning, “In
the vicinity of,” or merely, “In a location associated
with,” as in, “I’m going over by Jim’s”–REW).
8. Kaminski Park: The mispronounced name of the
ballpark where the Chicago White Sox (da Sox) play
baseball. Comiskey Park was recently renamed U.S.
Cellular Field (da Cell).
9. Frontroom: It’s not the “parlor.” It’s not the
“living room.”In the land of the bungalow, it’s the
10. Use: Not the verb, but the plural pronoun ‘you!’
“Where use goin’?”
11. Downtown: Anywhere near The Lake, south of The
Zoo (Lincoln Park Zoo) and north of Soldier Field.
12. The Lake: Lake Michigan. (What other lake is
there?) It’s often used by local weathermen, “cooler
by The Lake.”
14. Braht: Short for Bratwurst. “Gimme a braht wit
15. Goes: Past or present tense of the verb “say.”
For example,”Den he goes, ‘I like this place’!”
16. Guys: Used when addressing two or more people,
regardless of each individual’s gender.
17. Pop: A soft drink. Don’t say “soda” in this town.
“Do ya wanna canna pop?”
18. Sliders: Nickname for hamburgers from White
Castle, a popular burger chain. Virtually bite-sized
burgers- fried on only one side, since five holes in
each slice of a pre-formed ground beef loaf permit
hot grease mixed with chopped onions to cook
both sides at once- and much favored by truckers,
having an aftertaste reputed to last from Chicago
to Columbus, northern Wisconsin, Cape Girardeau,
or Sioux City, depending on direction. Belches
emitted after consuming sliders have been known
to sustain starving human beings for days.
Curiously addictive, sliders are at the same time
known to possess strange laxative properties: “Dose
sliders I had last night gave me da runs.”
19. The Taste: The Taste of Chicago Festival, a
huge extravaganza in Grant Park featuring samples
of Chicagoland cuisine which takes place each year
around the Fourth of July holiday.
20. “Jeetyet? Translates to, “Did you eat yet?”
(Sometimes contracted to simply, “Jeet?”
21. Winter and Construction: Punch line to the
joke, “What are the two seasons in Chicago?”
22. Cuppa Too-Tree: is Chicagoese for “a couple,
two, three” which really means “a few.” For
example,”Hey Mike, dere any beerz left in da
cooler over by dere?” “Yeh, a cuppa too-tree.”
23. 588-2300: Everyone in Chicago knows this
commercial jingle and the carpet company you’ll
get if you call that number — Empire!
24. Junk Dror: You will usually find the ‘junk
drawer’ in the kitchen filled to the brim with
miscellaneous, but very important, junk.
25. Southern Illinois: Anything south of I-80.
26. Expressways: The Interstates in the
immediate Chicagoland area are usually known
just by their names. and not their Interstate numbers:
the Dan Ryan (“da Ryan”), the Stevenson, the Kennedy
(da”Kennedy”), the Eisenhower (da “Ike”), and the
Edens (just “Edens,” but “Da Edens” is acceptable).
27. Gym Shoes: The rest of the country may
refer to them as sneakers or running shoes.
But Chicagoans will always call them “gym
28. Hunnerd: Referring to the addresses on the
blocks, as in, “What hunnerd nort do use live?”
Here are some of my favorite quotes about the town I love:
“It’s a 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark out and we’re wearing sun glasses. Hit it!” The Blues Brothers
“Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.” Carl Sandburg
“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.” Mark Twain
“I think that’s how Chicago got started. A bunch of people in New York said, “Gee, I’m enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn’t cold enough. Let’s go west.” Richard Jeni
“I still dream of the Lake of Peacefulness, and warm summer breeze. Where my life was so much simpler then… Street corners and Tastee Freeze.” Chicago
For anyone inclined, here are links to other great Chicago poems, saying and songs. Enjoy! (Pay the alderman on the way out!)