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20 slang words that every Chicagoan should know

Don't be a jagoff! Brush up on all of the essential Chicago lingo with our helpful dictionary.

Written by
Time Out Chicago editors

Every city has its own lingo, so if you're spending some time in Chicago, you might as well get acquainted with the local vernacular. From unique Chicago delicacies to nicknames for interstates, there's plenty of Chicago slang that might elicit a bit of confusion if you haven't spent much time in the Midwestern metropolis. While most people are familiar with "The Bean" and nicknames for other Chicago attractions, we've gathered some more essential Chicago slang—including terms you can use during your next visit to a Chicago hot dog restaurant.

Bungalow (n.): One-story, single-family homes with slanted roofs that are found in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Chicago handshake (n.): The local version of a boilermaker, typically comprising a pint (or can) of Old Style and a shot of Malört.

Chicago mix (n.): The salty-sweet combination of cheddar and caramel popcorn. You'll find it at Garrett Popcorn (where the scent usually wafts into the street) and pretty much every other popcorn shop in the city.

Comiskey (n.): When the original Comiskey Park (the home of the White Sox) was demolished in 1990, the team's new ballpark went by the same name until it was renamed U.S. Cellular Field in 2003, and more recently was dubbed Guaranteed Rate Field. Many fans still cling to the South Side stadium's original title.

Coach house (n.): A small apartment located in the rear of a property. The construction of new backyard houses is currently prohibited under Chicago's zoning ordinance, making these vintage residences increasingly rare.

The Dan Ryan (n.): Named for former Cook County Board president Dan Ryan Jr., this southern section of I-94 and I-90 runs from the Jane Byrne Interchange to 95th Street.

Dibs (n.): When it snows in Chicago and people dig out parking spots on the street to move their cars, you'll find stretches of pavement reserved with lawn chairs, tires, cinder blocks, stuffed animals and other assorted junk in observance of this winter ritual.

The Eisenhower (n.): Named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, this section of I-290 runs from the Jane Byrne Interchange to Schaumburg. It's also referred to as "the Ike."

The El (n.): Short for elevated, like the train lines it refers to. It's now used as a blanket term for the CTA's train system (including the lines that run at or below ground level).

Frunchroom (n.): The front room of an apartment or house, where guests are usually entertained.

Garden apartment (n.): A word used by realtors to gloss over the fact that the apartment you're looking at is in the basement (or, at the very least, partially below street level).

Jagoff (n.): A term used to describe corrupt politicians, bad drivers, lousy tippers and anyone else that Chicagoans generally dislike.

The Kennedy (n.): Named for President John F. Kennedy, this northern section of I-94 and I-90 runs from the Jane Byrne Interchange to O'Hare International Airport.

Mild sauce (n.): A combination of ketchup, hot sauce and barbecue sauce that is usually served with fried chicken. You'll find it on the menu at places like Harold's Chicken Shack and Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken.

Pedway (n.): The network of underground pedestrian passageways that connect many buildings in the Loop.

Slashie (n.): A bar that also sells beer and liquor to go. Sometimes the beer and booze is sold through an attached liquor store, and sometimes (like in the case of Go Tavern in Logan Square) you'll find coolers and shelves in the bar itself.

The Stevenson (n.): Named for former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson, this is the name frequently used for the portion of I-55 in Cook County, which connects Chicago to St. Louis.

Two-flat (n.): A two-story apartment building found in many Chicago neighborhoods where one tennant on the first floor and another tenant on the second (and sometimes a third tennant in the garden unit). You'll also find three- and four-flats throughout the city.

Wet (adj.): A common descriptor used when ordering an Italian beef sandwich, indicating that you want a liberal amount of the gravy (a.k.a. au jus) the meat was cooked in drizzled on top.

With everything (adj.): Language used when ordering a Chicago-style hot dog indicating that you want all of the usual toppings (typically this includes yellow mustard, chopped white onions, neon green relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers and celery salt).

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