Saturday, February 16, 2008

These Stupid Chicago Emails

I got another one of these tiresome emails about "Chicago Slang", as it were. I have already ranted about the characterizations, but here's the email and my comments.

Before I continue, must define something called the "Moustache Rule". This is that nationally presumptuous rule of thumb that every Chicagoan is a white, sloppy-talking, blue-collar, overweight beer-drinking slob that never paid attention to grammar or personal hygiene. Just like the SNL skits of old, it's assumed that these guys live for the Bears, eat lots of sausage, and generally spout stupidity. The typical poor grammar and speech jokes, with assumptions that Chicago people can't speak properly, will be attributed to the Moustache Rule. Anyway, see stupid email and my stupid comments...


1. Grachki (grach'-key): Chicagoese for 'garage key' as in,
'Yo, Theresa, waja do wit da grachki? How my supposta cut da grass if I don't git intada grach?'

How is "garage key" a common phrase? Ever hear of remote control door openers?

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.

I've heard that term in jest, only. And there's no such thing as a (sic) "sassage sammich". We call them "italian sausage" or "hot dog". NOBODY says "Italian Beef Sammich". An Italian Beef is known as "A Beef". And why do you need to explain an Italian Beef? The beef is sliced, not shredded. A perilously soggy bun? I've never heard of bread and danger put together before.

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.

Yeah, sure, this whole thing might've been around on the southwest side of town, but it really isn't prevalent as one might think. Moustache Rule...

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 the Jewels to pick up some sassage.'

No, that's wrong, people say "The Jewel". Stop by some time.

5. Field's: Marshall Field, a prominent Chicago department store. Also Carson Pirie Scott, another major department store chain, is simply called ' Carson 's.'

We'll just leave out the fact that Field's has since been bought out.

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 the 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 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 the bungalow, it's the 'frunchroom,' a named derived, linguists believe, from 'front room.'

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

I'll cite the "Moustache Rule" here for the above.

11. Downtown: Anywhere near The Lake, south of The Zoo (Lincoln Park Zoo) and north of Soldier Field.

Um, big cities tend to have a "downtown".

12. The Lake : Lake Michigan . (What other lake is there?) It's often used by local weathermen, 'cooler by The Lake.'

This one's true.

14. Braht: Short for Bratwurst. 'Gimme a braht wit kraut.'

Moustache Rule. And this isn't Milwaukee. What happened to item 13, by the way?

15. Goes: Past or present tense of the verb 'say.' For example, 'Den he goes, 'I like this place'!'

Can't argue that one.

16. Guys: Used when addressing two or more people, regardless of each individual's gender.

Not known to be specific to a region or locale.

17. Pop: A soft drink. Don't say 'soda' in this town. 'Do ya wanna canna pop?'

Yes, completely a regional thing. This debate will never end.

18. Sliders: Nickname for hamburgers from White Castle, a popular Midwestern burger chain. 'Dose sliders I had last night gave me da

White Castles are all over the eastern half of the country. Oh yeah, and Moustache Rule.

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.

Such daring parlance.

20. 'Jeetyet?': Translates to, 'Did you eat yet?'

Moustache Rule. Very clever. "Jyarunoutofstupiditemsyet?"

21. Winter and Construction: Punch line to the joke, 'What are the two seasons in Chicago ?'

Unfortunately, now it's just forever construction season.

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.'

Moustache Rule. Of course it's only "beerz" we drink.

23. 588- 2300: Everyone in Chicago knows this commercial jingle and the carpet company you'll get if you call that number -- Empire!

Fine, I'll give you that one. Though it's technically 800-588-2300.

24. Junk Dror: You will usually find the 'junk drawer' in the kitchen filled to the brim with miscellaneous, but very important, junk.

Who the hell decided this was a local thing? It's a damn drawer! What next, the phenomenon of this crazy "medicine cabinet" thing up in Spokane? Those crazy denizens of Baton Rouge, with their zany "flush toilets"? I hear that Detroit people are riding around in some type of "Horseless Carriage". Insanity.

25. Southern Illinois : Anything south of I-80. This is where Smothers' is from....

Technically that's incorrect - it is considered "downstate". Nice try though, I'm sure the Nantucket local library would have some more valuable slang material. Chop chop! No comment on the "smothers" thing, that's just off the map - literally.

26. Expressways: The Interstates in the immediate Chicagoland area are usually known just by their 'name' and not their Interstate
number: 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).

Ewww, fiendishly clever - stick that endearing "da" article in front of the names and it will be Chicagoese! I tend to think that this joke has worn out its welcome, Thad.

27. Gym Shoes: The rest of the country may refer to them
as sneakers or running shoes but Chicagoans will always call them gym

Sneakers? Running shoes? Good Lord, Ruben Kincaid, get out of the 1970s. Running shoes? What the hell does that mean? At least I've heard the phrase "tennis shoes" before. It's not a Chicago thing, it's a "now" thing, nimrod. Grab a new flux capacitor and join our century.

Man, to think I wasted an hour on this...


Xoynx said...

Reading your post, I kept hearing The Regular Guy and Archie Bunker alternately, further debunking their foreign myths.

4. "The Jewel"? Never heard that before. You say "the Osco" and "the McDonald's" too?

12. Yes, it's true--and equally true for any other city next to a lake.

15. It's nationally ubiquitous. Watch...

26. I admit: this one threw me when I first moved here. People would go, "look for the Edens exit," and I'd go, "is that before or after 94?"

Okay, so the Taste and expressways are the two actual Chicagoisms on this list. Pfft.

Anonymous said...


In the past I've almost all of this stuff spoken by southwest siders. Usually, in a bar. Plus, I did live there 30 yrs. ago ...for a short period of time. The language barrier killed me. They are a different breed there.


The Vapid Voice said...

As for Xoynx...

4. I've never said any of those; I said I've *heard* people say "the Jewel". Read before you write, wise guy! Aren't you a Canadian that lived in Evanston and moved to Arizona? Zing!

26. Yeah I just found issue with the pointless "da" prefix. Otherwise, it is true, the highways around here are never referenced by number, but by name, just sans the "da" crap.

To Fagedaboudit:
Yeah, most of those language characterizations stem from the southwest siders, for sure. It's just cultural, is all, but some of the things in that email were just patently inaccurate, even for the "sowt side".

Scarlett said...

Good post.