How to Speak Chicago-an: A Mini-Berlitz Guide for Travellers

March 9, 2007
Planning a trip to the windy city?  Keep this handy list of phrases in mind

I wasn't going to post anything else today, but couldn't resist after receiving this from a a New Yorker living in Chicago, I've found the slang here to be very different. 

Planning a trip to the windy city?  Keep this handy list of phrases in mind (or you may not be able to understand the natives all the time, although I have heard #20 used in New York).


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 grach?" 

2. Sammich: Chicagoese for sandwich. When made with sausage, it's a sassage sammich; when made with shredded beef, it's an Italian Beef sammich, a  local delicacy consisting of piles of spicy meat in a perilously soggy bun.

3. Da: This article is a key part of Chicago speech, as in "Da Bears" or "Da Mare" -- the latter denoting Richard M. Daley, or Richie, as he's often called. 

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 prom inent Chicago department store. Also Carson Pirie Scott, another major department store chain, is simply Called "Carson's."

6. Tree: The number between two and four. "We were lucky dat we only got tree inches of snow da udder night." 

7. Over by dere: Translates to "over by there," a way of emphasizing a site presumed familiar to the listener. As in, "I got the sassage at Jewels down  on Kedzie, over by dere."

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. Frunchroom: As in, "Get outta da frunchroom wit dose muddy shoes." It's not the "parlor." It's not the "living room." In the land of thebungalow, it's the "frunchroom," a named derived, linguists believe, from "frontroom."

10. Use: Not the verb, but the plural pronoun 'you!' "Where use goin'?"

11. Down town: 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 kraut."

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  Midwestern burger chain.

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?": Translate s to, "Did you eat yet?"

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 'name' and not their Interstate number: theDan 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 shoes!

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