Definitions of words and idioms that mean something else in Illinois; posted as a public service to the consumers of news.
Asian Carp: A destructive monster that devours everything in its path, and is therefore a terrible threat to its rival, the state government.
Autumn: The hour or two in which summer gives way to winter.
Bail Bond: The criminal promises to pay if he doesn’t show up for trial, and the city promises to look the other way while he commits more crimes until then.
Bike Route: Adding 20% to the cost of building a road, increasing the danger level by hundreds of percent, all for a perceived benefit to a fraction of a percent of the road’s users. But heck, it makes environmentalists happy in San Francisco and Washington.
Blues: The way you feel after getting your property tax bill.
Bribery Acceptance: A crime for both parties.
Bribery Solicitation: It’s an honor just to be nominated.
Bungalow: A home for two generations of living residents, or four generations of voters.
Cal-Sag Channel: The least entertaining of Comcast’s 600 offerings.
Chicago School of Architecture: If you build it, they will buy.
Chicago School of Economics: If you buy it, they will build.
Chicago School of Politics: If you build, we’ll make you pay.
Concealed Carry: A concept that law-abiding citizens can only utilize for half an hour at a time, in between buildings displaying window-stickers announcing that guns must be left at home… but which criminals can utilize 24 hours a day.
Congressional District: A place to be from, but never to be.
Criminal Justice: Giving a politician a robe.
Criminal Record: A rapper’s CD.
Cul de Sac: A street that mayors wall off with dead ends, to make it quieter for homeowners, harder to escape from for criminals… and impossible to be cruised, by either teens or police cruisers.
Daily Newspaper: Any newspaper, even three years after the last mayor’s retirement, that still writes about the Daleys.
Denial: A pre-confession.
Des Plaines River: A term with different meanings on the north and south sides: It fills south side barges with cargo, and fills north side basements with water.
Eisenhower Expressway: Thirty hours to go thirty miles.
Election Year: The biennial mating ritual between the governed and their governors, involving even less honesty than other mating rituals.
Elevators: In private buildings, a room that goes up and down. In public housing, a room that stands still.
Fireworks Shows The second most expensive way of obscuring the noise of city gunfire.
Flower Pots: Huge obstructions designed to cause auto accidents, and thus make work for the city’s auto repair businesses.
Football: A governor’s hairbrush. Back when governors had hair.
Foundation Cracks: Cellar’s remorse.
Garfield Park Conservatory: Beauty under glass, to be visited at one’s peril.
Haymarket: A place where people make hay about opposing free markets.
Indictment: A collectible award for expertise in one’s field. Some Chicago politicians collect dozens of them.
Invasive Species: A destructive brood of predators, uncontrollable by normal extermination techniques. Synonyms: Politicians, Party Hacks, Bureaucrats.
Lincoln Park Conservatory: Glass and greenery, in a world of brownstone.
Mandatory Sentences: Old-fashioned English homework (obsolete).
Monuments: Statues in public parks, commemorating heroes whose lives are no longer taught about in the schools. Fearing possible ethnic group outrage, they don’t take them down, because the politicians don’t know who any of them are either.
Museum of Science and Industry: 350,000 square feet of celebrating the obsolete concepts most under assault by the educational establishment and the political class.
Navy Pier: Stained-glass windows without churches, a wheel without a tire, docks without patients…
Nursing Home: A place where aldermen are kept funded and voters are kept alive, until at least the next election.
Passenger Rail: How politicians ride out of town (feathers and hot tar optional).
Prescriptions: An old-fashioned way to get drugs (obsolete).
Printer’s Row: A font of lofty ideals, built on the graves of picas and elites.
Public Housing: Life imprisonment.
Public Schools: A bottomless pit into which taxpayer dollars, whole generations of children, and a nation’s hopes are poured, with nothing to show for it.
Red Light Cameras: The key to a more lucrative red light district than the old-fashioned kind.
Redistricting: Using census results to draw allies into safe districts, and to draw enemies out of them.
Sentencing Guidelines: Just one more thing for judges to disregard.
Slats Grobnick: The ward heeler who made it!
Slums: Government housing provided for the herds living in vote farms.
Snow Shovel: Seasonal equipment that’s out-of-season too briefly to be worth the trouble of bringing inside until next season.
Spring: The hour or two in which winter gives way to summer.
Super-conducting Super-collider: Ogden and Illinois 59 in Naperville, or, heck, any Chicagoland intersection at evening rush hour.
Terminal 4: The place where all that revenue that O’Hare brings in to Illinois must really end up.
Ward Heelers: Making Chicago safe for democracy since 1837.
Water Tower: Demonstrably the best place to hide during a fire.
Work Zone: Miles and miles of unattended orange barrels and orange cones.
Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance trainer and Customs broker. Born in Chicago in 1962, he was exiled to the suburbs at the age of one, where he has remained ever since.
This is a work of fiction. No actual similarity to real dictionaries is intended or implied. We have sent letters of apology to the staffs of Merriam-Webster and the OED for what we’ve done to their language, and they’ve sent us letters of apology for what Chicago has done to us.
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included. Follow John F. Di Leo on LinkedIn or Facebook, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo.