Photo: William Perugini/Shutterstock

19 Expressions You Need to Learn Before Visiting Chicago

by Benjamin Schaye Jul 24, 2018

If you’re planning a trip to Chicago or thinking about moving here, you’ll need to be up to date on your Chicagoisms to understand us locals, and avoid the embarrassment of committing the verbal equivalent of putting ketchup on your hotdog. We drink “pop” (never soda), work out in “gym shoes,” and sometimes knock back “a couple of two, three beers” because saying “a few beers” is just boring. Here are 19 more expressions you need to learn before visiting Chicago.

1. “Sox Park”

“Sox Park” is where the Chicago White Sox baseball team play their home games on the South Side. You can also call it by its old name “Comiskey Park,” or just “Comiskey,” but nobody ever calls it by its actual name, the horrible “Guaranteed Rate Field.”

2. “Where is that at?”

Chicagoans always add unnecessary prepositions at the end of sentences. “Where is the party at?” “Do you want to go with?” and so on.

3. “Cooler near the lake”

“Cooler near the lake” is a saying you hear on most weather reports throughout the Chicago summer. It’s just what it sounds like; temperatures are usually cooler the closer you are to the Lake.

4. “The Lake”

“The Lake” is Lake Michigan.

5. “The River”

“The River” is the Chicago River.

6. “Wrigley”

“Wrigley” can mean Wrigley Field where the Chicago Cubs play, or it can mean the entire neighborhood of Wrigleyville that surrounds the stadium.

7. “Dipped”

Those in the know order their Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich “dipped.” Once the sandwich is made (either a hot beef or a sweet beef depending on the peppers you choose), it’s given a dunk in the jus (gravy) that the beef cooks in, making the bread soggy and delicious. This can also be called “baptizing the beef.”

8. “The UC”

The Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks play their home games at the United Center, also known as “the UC.”

9. “The Greatest”

There is only one “The Greatest” and he goes by the name of Michael Jordan. You can also refer to him by “His Airness,” “Jordan,” or just “Mike.” Don’t come into Chicago spouting off any nonsense about LeBron or anyone else being the greatest of all time. We don’t take too kindly to that here in the Chi.

10. “Celery salt”

“Celery salt” is one of the essential ingredients of a Chicago-style hot dog, along with chopped white onions, tomatoes, a pickle, mustard, relish, and (optional) sport peppers.

11. “Bum a square”

It’s pretty likely someone will come up to you on the street in Chicago and ask to “bum a square.” A “square” is a cigarette and they’re asking you for one.

12. “The Sears Tower”

The tallest building in Chicago is the “Sears Tower.” We don’t care that it was officially renamed “Willis Tower” in 2009, it will always be the Sears Tower to us.

13. “Giardiniera”

“Giardiniera” is the essential Chicago condiment. There are many different varieties but the most common version is pickled hot peppers, celery, carrot, cauliflower, and olives, packed in oil. There are spicy and mild varieties and Chicagoans put it on everything from Italian beef to pizza.

14. “The Big Green Limousine”

This is an old name for the city buses from back when Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses were green and white. Taking the “Big Green Limousine” means taking the bus.

15. “Dibs”

“Dibs” is the practice of reserving a parking spot that you shoveled snow out of. Dibs is claimed by putting various pieces old furniture in your spot and maybe laying a board between them.

16. “LSD”

Taking “LSD” in Chicago means driving on Lake Shore Drive. Locals also call it “Lake Shore” or “The Drive.”

17. “Chads and Trixies”

“Chads and Trixies” are the yuppie types who live in neighborhoods like Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park, and River North. Most of them are graduates from various Big Ten universities around the Midwest, and almost none of them are Chicago natives.

18. “Viagra Triangle”

Rush Street is an area full of bars, restaurants, and dance clubs. The area draws a lot of older rich guys looking for pretty, younger women, and lots of young women looking for rich older men. In the center of it all, three streets come together to form a triangle, hence, “The Viagra Triangle.”

19. “The L”

“The L” is short for “the elevated” which is how a majority of Chicago’s train lines run. You can also just say the color of the line you’re on (e.g. “I’m on the Red Line”). If you just say “take the CTA,” you’re covering trains and buses, but not the commuter trains to the suburbs, which are just called by their name — “Metra.”

Discover Matador