17 Chicago Phrases You Need In Your Life

The Bean | © Diesel Demon/Flickr
The Bean | © Diesel Demon/Flickr
Photo of Samantha Looney
17 October 2016

Chicago has its own local specialties of art, music and food. The regional culture carries over into a world of the city’s own unique words and phrases. Whether it’s a deep-dish pizza or an LSD trip, here is a list of words and expressions you need to know when you are in Chicago.

The Bean

Actually called Cloud Gate, the bean is a work of art located in Chicago’s Millennium Park calling attention to thousands of tourists and locals each year.

The Bean | © Diesel Demon/Flickr


Otherwise known as a bathroom.

Gym shoes

While other states may refer to these shoes as tennis shoes, sneakers, or running shoes, in Chicago, they are called gym shoes.

Running Shoes | © Josiah Mackenzie/Flickr


Coined by Mike Ditka, former head coach of ‘Da Bears’, a grabowski is a hard working, blue-collar type of person. Ditka used this word to describe the players on his team, but the word has stuck with Chicagoans ever since.


No, they’re not referring to jewelry, but rather the local grocery store, Jewel Osco.


Don’t even think about calling it soda or Coca Cola here.

Coca Cola | © Mike Mozart/Flickr


Chicago writer George Ade originally used this word in 1899 as a personification of the flu, calling it ‘Mr. Grip Razmataz.’ The next year, he used it again in what has become its current meaning: showy or dazzling.


Generally coming from rap music, the word ‘props’ means due respect and first appeared in the Chicago Tribune on July 29, 1990.


No, not the drug (even though a trip down this road during rush-hour traffic might drive you just as crazy). In Chicago, LSD stands for Lake Shore Drive, the highway that runs along Lake Michigan and has one of the most beautiful views of the city.

Lake Shore Drive | © kosheahan/Flickr


Not a rude teenager, but rather an abbreviation for bratwurst.

Deep Dish

Whether it’s from Giordano’s or Pequano’s, the world famous Chicago deep-dish pizza is a must during your time in the city.

Deep Dish Pizza | © Eric Chan/Flickr


A somewhat derogatory phrase created from the first letters of a ‘young urban professional.’


The Marshall Field and Company flagship store was once a prominent Chicago department store. It has since become a Macy’s, but the building is still referred to as ‘Fields’.


A delicious burger from the popular Midwestern fast-food chain White Castle.

White Castle Burgers | © Ryan/Flickr

Wet Beef

This phrase is used to specify that you want your beef soaked in juice when you’re ordering a beef sandwich, most likely from Portillo’s. And in Chicago, wetter is always better.

The Second City

Originally used to refer to the second largest city in a country. Los Angeles might have taken Chicago’s rank in the USA but Chicago kept the nickname. Also a popular comedy club.

The Friendly Confines

Another name for Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.

Wrigley Field | © Ron Cogswell/Flickr

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