Dos and Don’ts
Attire: Feel free to dress casually. Perhaps as a consequence of the weather—sweltering in summer, freezing in winter—Chicagoans have a practical sartorial style. “Even at the theater it’s OK to wear khakis.”—Lisbeth Levine, contributing editor, InStyle magazine.
Neighborhoods: Explore the neighborhoods. Chicago is officially home to 77 neighborhoods; unofficially there are hundreds of micro-hoods with character. “To experience Chicago you need to go out into the neighborhoods.”—Valerie Moloney, Chicago editor, Citysearch.com. “Pick a language and you can go to a neighborhood where only that language is spoken; not just Spanish, but Swedish!”—Peter Sagal, Chicago NPR radio host.
Seasons: Heed the cultural calendar. If coming for theater and the performing arts, “summer tends to be a bit less busy.”—Hedy Weiss, theater critic, Chicago Sun-Times. Peak arts seasons are fall and spring. Festival season is summer.
Al Capone: Don’t mention Al Capone. Residents cringe at the thought that the city is remembered for its Prohibition-era gangster antics. Of course, if you can be humorous about it, give it your best shot, á la: “There was no need to inform us of the protocol involved. We were from Chicago and knew all about cement.”—Comedian Groucho Marx.
The Chicago way of speaking has more to do with accent than invention. The A’s are flat and Th’s are often made Ds. “The accent smells of sport peppers and tar and brick and steel and common sense.”—Peter Sagal, Chicago NPR radio host. Here are some terms unique to the city:
Chicagoland: The Chicago metro area, including the suburbs
Chi-Town: Chicago, pronounced “shy-town,” though rarely spoken by a resident
Dragged through the garden: A hot dog with all the trimmings, including yellow mustard, neon green relish, onion, sport peppers, tomato wedges, and dill pickle spear
Hizzoner: The mayor, usually the first Mayor Richard J. Daley but also used to reference his son and current Mayor Richard M. Daley
The Hawk: The wind off Lake Michigan, especially in winter
The L: The Chicago Transit Authority’s mass-transit train system, both elevated (the origin of “el” or L) and underground
The Loop: The downtown district
The prairie: An empty city lot
Trixie, Chad: Generally derogatory terms for pretty, shallow, upwardly mobile young women (Trixies) and men (Chads), usually residing in the Lincoln Park neighborhood
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