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Photograph: Time Out

26 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.

Jeffy Mai
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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 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.

“Dragged through the garden” (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).

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 "L" (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.

Gangway (n.): The narrow walkway between two buildings. It's said that gang members back in the day would use these passages to get around and escape the police.

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).

Grabowski (n.): A colloquial name referring to a hard-working, blue-collar worker. Originated from Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka calling players on the team “Grabowskis,” a reference to former Bears running back Jim Grabowski.

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.

Pop (n.): A sweetened, carbonated soft-drink also referred to as “soda” or "Coke" in other parts of the country.

S-Curve (n.): Portion of Dusable Lake Shore Drive at North Oak Street, where the drive path rapidly curves west and then quickly straightens back northward. The current iteration is, however, gentler than the infamous “Z-Curve,” a section of the lakefront highway that had two near-90 degree turns and was abandoned in the 1980s.

Six Corners (n.): The intersection of Irving Park Road, Cicero Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue in the Portage Park neighborhood. The general area around the specific intersection is popular for shopping and retail. Not to be confused with three-street intersection of North Avenue, Damen Avenue and Milkwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.

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.

Steppin’ (n.): A rhythmic partnered dance that was popularized on the South and West Sides in the 1940s and 50s.

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.

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