Definitions of words and idioms that mean something else in Illinois; posted as a public service to the consumers of news.
Airport Transit: The latest, quickest way to convey campaign contributions from the restaurant to City Hall.
Bailiff: A well-armed and well-trained state employee, tasked with the duty of keeping defendants secure and harmless throughout the trial, until the judge gives the order to release them at the end, whatever the result.
Black Bear: An illegal alien (to Illinois), traversing the state with impunity all summer, as no one dares accuse an endangered species of being politically incorrect.
Blackhawks: Employing the Hockey Stick to fight global warming since 1926.
Board of Trade: The public’s loss of interest by the time sports teams get down to the fifth or sixth set of drafts.
Cahokia: An ancient Native American city located in what is now St Clair County, in southwest Illinois. Completely abandoned over a century before the European discovery of the New World, Cahokia was populated – at its 13th century peak – by over 40,000 residents, all of whom are still voting today.
Chop Shop: Where the white collar, the red line and the black market intersect.
Circuit Court Judge: A robed jurist who has the awesome power to decide whether to let the defendant go because he’s innocent, or to let the defendant go because the few days he’s served have already been enough, or to let the defendant go because there’s just not enough room in the prison, what with all the governors, state reps, and alderman filling up all the cells.
Columbian Exposition: A World’s Fair held in Chicago for six months in 1893, which briefly brought over 27 million tourists to Chicago, all of whom are still voting today.
Commerce: Just another thing to tax.
Defendant: A criminal who, for his tenth arrest, stayed around for the trial just to see what it’s like.
Drugstore: A high-overhead enterprise at which to buy drugs.
Drug Dealer: A low-overhead enterprise at which to buy drugs.
Fort Dearborn: A military post, staffed by both soldiers and civilians, utterly destroyed by the Potawatomi on August 15,1812, when 52 were killed and 41 were captured, all of whom are still voting today.
Grand Jury: The death panel for politicians, civil servants, and the people who own them.
Great Chicago Fire: An October, 1871 disaster that destroyed 17,000 structures and left 300 dead and over 100,000 homeless, all of whom are still voting today.
Gun Shops: Businesses that failed to donate in sufficient amounts to satisfy Chicago political campaign committees.
Home Insurance Building: The world’s first skyscraper to be built with a fireproof metal frame, designed by William Le Baron Jenney and constructed in 1884 by thousands of ironworkers, carpenters, and glaziers, all of whom are still voting today.
Judge: An attorney who wears a long black robe even when he’s not at home.
Jurisprudence: An oxymoron.
Juror: A person who agonizes over whether or not to vote to convict, only to have his hopes dashed when the judge lets the criminal go, either way.
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises: Only a Chicago restaurant business would dare to put a popular shorthand word for “politically corrupt financial shenanigans” right in the business’ legal name. (I was talking about the word “Enterprises”… what did you think I meant?)
Meth Lab: What happens when good antihistamines go bad.
Microbrewery: A macrobrewery that encountered Illinois economics.
Neighborhood Drug Dealer: A local anesthetic.
Patrick and Catherine O’Leary: Chicago residents with a small farm at 137 DeKoven Street, considered the center of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. They owned five cows at the time of the fire, all of whom are still voting today.
People: Just another thing to tax.
Pit Bull: A particularly aggressive commodities trade.
Products: Just another thing to tax.
Real Estate: Just another thing to tax.
Shakman Consent Decree: The naïve belief that the addition of a second layer of corrupt government will make the first layer less corrupt.
Six Flags: The number of free passes a criminal gets before actually being prosecuted for anything.
Starved Rock: Underfed musicians.
Strip Clubs: The shopkeepers, employees, and customers of a strip mall.
Taxpayers: Illinois’ primary export.
Terminal 5: An international source of domestic campaign contributions.
Transportation Network: A suburban-funded system of highways and railroads designed to pull commerce from the suburbs into the city.
Tri-State: The mantra of college-bound students upon learning of being rejected by their first private university preferences: “if at first you don’t succeed, Try State Again…”
Trump Tower: 96 floors of bridge players, with no trump in sight… well, unless you count those 20-foot tall letters up there…
Versailles: The primary model of the modern Chicago suburban police station, library, and city hall. And they wonder why they’re broke.
Waste Management: The filing system for whistleblowers’ reports.
Whistleblower: A musician who only sings for grand juries.
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, allegedly out of fear of reprisal from the denizens of the 51st Ward…
This is a work of fiction. No actual similarity to real people, organizations, or dictionaries is intended or implied. We have sent letters of apology to the staffs of Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary for what we’ve done to their language, and they’ve sent us letters of condolence 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.