Further definitions of common words and phrases that mean something else in Illinois, presented here at no charge, as a public service to the news consumer.
Alderman: A large and garish hat, occasionally with an even louder person underneath.
Bribery: One of the few part-time jobs that can be practiced concurrently with one’s full-time job, leaving evenings and weekends free. (Alternate definition: the primary determinant in the award of competitive bids).
Chicago River: A 19th Century engineering experiment in reversing the flow of water out of Chicago, toward the southern states. This was to be duplicated in the 20th and 21st centuries with businesses and jobs.
Closet: Where shoeboxes are stored.
Commuter: An endangered species, identifiable by its navy pinstripe coloring, black laptop satchel, and pocketful of phone messages from executive recruiters in Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Texas.
Competitive Bids: Uncompetitive bids.
Comptroller: A politician with more surnames and less principle than your average politician.
Corporate CEO: An endangered species, identifiable by its charcoal pinstripe coloring, tan designer laptop satchel, and pocketful of phone messages from Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Rick Perry.
Corruption: The state sport, played either one-on-one or in teams, occasionally even in leagues. (Alternate definition: a justification for a tax increase)
Deep Dish Pizza: A Chicago specialty, particularly in the “supreme” version: the process of loading ever heavier burdens on the same amount of productive square footage… the model for Illinois’ property and income tax assessment schemes.
East St. Louis, Illinois: Not east, not saintly, but definitely Illinois. (Alternate definition: The Chicago of the South).
Erosion: The gradual loss of respect for what they learned in civics class, as newcomers to Illinois begin to grasp their new surroundings.
Fishing: A sport that provides isolation for its adherents, in a boat in the middle of a lake, out of reach of reporters, fellow politicians, and, presumably, any responsibility for what’s going down on land at the time…
Governor’s Office: The nation’s finest professional training ground for future dishwashers and Shakespeare lecturers.
Hebron: (archaic) A farming community, much like the ancient Sabine lands, once known for housing the mistresses of county board chairmen, but what’s done is done.
Illinois State Line: The last thing seen in the rear view mirror of tens of thousands of taxpayers every year.
License Plates: Rectangular numbered metal products, proudly and professionally hand-crafted by retired Illinois politicians.
Lincoln: Born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, died in Washington, D.C., claimed by Illinois.
Mayor: A retired ballet dancer who can no longer pirouette professionally, but can still spin with the best of them. (Alternate definition: a justification for a tax increase).
Old State Capitol: The only political office that has ever received the truly thorough physical housecleaning that most Illinois political offices, and officeholders, deserve.
No-Bid Contract: A retiring incumbent with a wife or child who wants the seat.
Party Platform: A museum piece, often complimented, occasionally read, rarely implemented.
Politician: The career stepping stone between “Juvenile Delinquent” and “Felon.”
Potholes: The ubiquitous and metaphoric representation of the state government’s debt. (Alternate definition: a justification for a tax increase)
Primary: A competitive bid.
Ronald Reagan: The only American President born and raised in Illinois – honest, brilliant, courageous, and world-renowned – in other words, the black sheep of the family.
Round Table: A seasonal cornucopia of signatures, customarily spotted only during petition season.
Quarters: Heavier than currency, but free of those pesky serial numbers and magnetic strips.
Shoeboxes: Safer than banks… for some people.
Skyscraper: The unit of measure used in recording the level of spending by Illinois government. (Alternate definition: a justification for tax increases).
Term Limits: A popular good-government-sounding proposal that can go nowhere in a state that disallows binding referenda and encourages elective offices to be hereditary.
The Illinois Department of Transportation: Patronage jobs that take their toll.
Tombstone: The permanent resume of a temporary United States Senator. (Alternate definition: the hard-copy version of a voter registration card).
See Di Leo's Chicago Dictionary Volume One HERE.
Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance trainer, Illinois Review columnist, actor, and recovering politician. He was born in Chicago, but moved to the suburbs when he was a year old, then grew up in Evanston, Park Ridge, and Aurora. He has never spent another night in the city since 1963. When asked why, he says something about wanting to stay out of reach of “the denizens of the 51st Ward…”
In case anyone got offended reading this humor column, don’t worry. Letters of apology have already been sent to Merriam-Webster, Oxford, and Samuel Johnson. In a rare show of balance, we have simultaneously received letters of apology from American Heritage, Larousse, and Ambrose Bierce, all of whom feel sorry for us.
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