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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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brian / May 19, 2004 12:06 PM

They know what a Pizza Puff is.

dan / May 19, 2004 12:12 PM

Very easily... do they know how to play "Bozo Buckets?"

Andrew / May 19, 2004 12:20 PM

I was going to say that they knaw what the names for the various highways are (eg, Ike = I55) but I know too many natives who are just as confused as non-natives.

Knowing who Son of Svengoolie is a good sign, but hard to test.

One good way to tell cityfolk from suburbanites: What does "downtown" mean? In the city, it means the Loop, in the 'burbs it means the city. I don't know what it means to people not from here.

Archie / May 19, 2004 12:22 PM

Native Chicagoans always complain about this city and talk about moving somwhere else. People who moved into Chicago complain about this city but realize that its better than where they moved from.

paul / May 19, 2004 12:23 PM

I know how to play bozo buckets and I'm from Jersey. A more apt question would be something about Ray Raynor or Clutch Cargo which we didn't get back East.

I've found the mispronounciation of 'Goethe' to be an unreliable test, unlike the NY 'Houston' test. However anyone referring to their home as the "windy city" is lying and from somewhere else.

Brenda / May 19, 2004 12:29 PM

They show no vanity when it comes to dressing for the cold weather. Stupid-looking-but-warm hat: Chicagoan. No hat: silly transplant.

Brenda / May 19, 2004 12:29 PM

oh... and Chicagoans know that "Chicago-style pizza" is really stuffed pizza, not "deep dish."

Wendy / May 19, 2004 12:33 PM

They sometimes slip up and refer to the CTA lines by their pre color-coded names, i.e., the Congress; the Lake Street el, the Ravenswood line.

They know who Steve Dahl is!

(oh, and FYI: the Ike is 290; the Stevenson is 55)

jennifer / May 19, 2004 12:35 PM

Native Chicagoans say "Paul-eye-na". People who are new to the city say "Paul-ee-na" until they are corrected by a native Chicagoan (in my experience, anyway.)

Go Yuri! / May 19, 2004 12:36 PM

The people here who post and act as if they are just so culturally sophisticated that they indeed must ridicule the "burbs" because something has to justify why they are paying so much for rent and coffee . . . you are not Chicagoans.

amyc / May 19, 2004 12:39 PM

You again?

Benjy / May 19, 2004 12:50 PM

Chicagoans say "I'm going to the Jewel/Dominicks" rather then "I'm going to Jewel/Dominicks" or "I'm going to the grocery store"

Oh, and we know what Italian Beef is.

jennifer / May 19, 2004 12:53 PM

A native Chicagoan ('specially South Siders) will say "couple two three/tree" instead of "few".

pat / May 19, 2004 1:07 PM

I find true chicagoans go "over by the Jewels for a case of pop."

j3s / May 19, 2004 1:19 PM

To go along with street pronunciations: people not from here pronounce Armitage "arm-i-tahj" instead of "arm-i-tidge." Ok, phonetic spelling is weird.

schecki / May 19, 2004 1:33 PM

Chicagoans end questions with prepositions:

You want to go with?
Where's he at?

mmm / May 19, 2004 1:45 PM

Native Chicagoans know that the only cabs on duty/available are the ones with the middle lights on (not the sides).....transplants will wave at anything.

This is probably too general of a statement, but I am constantly amazed that some of my friends from out-of-state still wave (after living here for 3 years) at all cabs and get upset when the "taken" ones don't stop!

Cinnamon / May 19, 2004 1:51 PM

Not being from here originally, but calling it my home now, I still say "freeway or highway" instead of "expressway". What's so express about it?
"Where's he at?" big in Ohio at least.
I knew the cab lights thing from day one, makes perfect sense. But drunk people from the burbs seem to wave at all cabs, especially if they're downtown and need to get to last Metra train leaving the city. Sorry, Yuri, but the suburbs remind me of where I grew up and why I want to live inside Chicago.

Benjy / May 19, 2004 1:53 PM

Native Chicagoans know that the only cabs on duty/available are the ones with the middle lights on (not the sides).....transplants will wave at anything.

This is also a suburbanite/city dweller difference. As is having somebody direct you into a parallel parking spot when the space is more than 3 feet longer than your car...

Miss-Black / May 19, 2004 1:57 PM

This is so wierd, I was just having this conversation with a friend of mine at Delilah's last Friday. I'm from Detroit and she's from downstate. At the time we decided you could always tell who was a native because they were an asshole. I know that's entirely unfair but it was damn funny to us after a few drinks...

daruma / May 19, 2004 2:06 PM

As some have hit on, definitely the pronunciation of street names, particularly Devon, Wabash, & Clybourn. Also we drink pop, never soda.

Miss-Black / May 19, 2004 2:09 PM

Before I get bitched at for calling millions of people assholes I should apologize. It's not true. However, we also decided that afternoon you can tell aren't from Chicagoland by the way they drink Stroh's and can talk about having loved Van Halen and Ratt without a hint of irony.

Andrew / May 19, 2004 2:21 PM

(oh, and FYI: the Ike is 290; the Stevenson is 55)

Doh! See? I've lived here my whole life (minus college) and I still get it wrong.

dan / May 19, 2004 2:31 PM

Hmmm... A friend from Ithaca, NY, told me about being at a party recently that had Bozo buckets. All the non-native Chicagoans had no idea how to play. I figured it was a purely Midwest thing.

(It goes without saying she wasn't familiar with Cookie the Clown either.)

So, let me amend this...

I would say it's a safe bet that if someone is in their '20s and '30s, and they remember Medusa's nightclub, they're native.

If someone is in their late '40's or older, and they remember Riverview (theme park), they're also native.

Alice / May 19, 2004 2:35 PM

I second Wendy about the CTA names, but I would also extend it to say that natives recall the disused names for some of the stations. I still catch myself saying Lake Transfer for Clark/Lake.

I also agree about the pronunciation of street names. It's De-VON, not DEV-on.

Natives buy season tickets to their favorite teams even when they're not winning.

And natives, though they may complain themselves, tend to be fiercely proud of Chicago and bristle at the complaints of transplants.

davin / May 19, 2004 2:38 PM

it's the accent.

sometimes i listen to morning radio on my way to work and just laugh at the accents of people who call in. some of them are pretty intense. it seems to be especially so with females that the nasal accent is incredibly extreme. more so than other areas of the midwest.

they also say "you/that crack/s me up!" (the "crack" being extremely nasal)

jenny / May 19, 2004 2:55 PM

Yeah, the pronunciation of the word "crack" is a dead giveaway.

Peter / May 19, 2004 2:59 PM

Non-natives describe Chicago as a big city.

Non-natives pronounce "Shi-kaw-go" instead of "Shi-kah-go"

Non-natives have some kind of beef with the surrounding suburbs. Sorry kids.

YL / May 19, 2004 3:10 PM

I wonder whether other cities inspire such amusing inferiority complexes in their suburban neighbors. Do Gawker and Gothamist get harrassed like this?

YL / May 19, 2004 3:12 PM

And to stay on topic, don't forget Eric Zorn's Are you a Chicagoan? quiz.

Al / May 19, 2004 3:43 PM

Eh, I'm not so sure that there really is an easy way to tell. I think if you call Chicago(land) home then that makes you a native. Who cares if you grew up here or not? If you didn't, at least you had the good sense to move away from home and come to a great city like Chicago right? Perhaps a better question for the board would be "What idiosyncratic things about living/growing up in Chicago do you love/hate?"

Brenda / May 19, 2004 4:10 PM

ah, yes: "Chicagoland". If that word makes you cringe, you're a Chicagoan.


Pete / May 19, 2004 4:25 PM

Non-natives always refer to Soldier Field as "Soldier Field."

dav3 / May 19, 2004 4:34 PM

mmmm medusa's

Eamon / May 19, 2004 4:48 PM

That's easy: FIVE-EIGHT-EIGHT...

dan / May 19, 2004 4:58 PM

...two three-hundred!!

That would be reliable, except that those commercials have showed in Michigan and Milwaukee too.

And, the first Wayne's World movie.

Benjy / May 19, 2004 5:00 PM


Kris / May 19, 2004 5:19 PM

I always saw the idiots waving at occupied cabs as tourists, not as suburbanites or non-natives. I've spent enough time working in hotelville (river north/michigan ave) to know that these people don't have cabs where they come from.

It's funny to me how those street name pronunciations that seemed so wrong to me when I was new here (Devon, etc.) are so ingrained now that it grates on my nerves to hear them mangled. Again, I'm reminded of my favorite joke about the Chicago streets that rhyme with a part of the female anatomy. Ahem. But you know what I still don't know? Honore. In three years of trying I can't get anyone to say it out loud! Tell me how to say it, people!

paul / May 19, 2004 5:21 PM

Empire is now in most big American cities, so that test won't work anymore. I was eating at a fancy Chicago restaurant with my parents (who still live on the east coast) when my father says "hey isn't that the Empire carpet guy eating over there?"

I couldn't understand how he recognized him, figuring it might be from watching WGN, which their NJ cable company picked up, but it's because Empire is everywhere now.

I've been here 15 years, and still wave at full taxis, it's so opposite from NY.

pj chmiel / May 19, 2004 6:04 PM

my grandmother who grew up on the south side at 35th and Honore, pronounces it "Ah-ner-ee" with stress on the first syllable.

donna / May 19, 2004 6:48 PM

lots of southsiders i know have always, and will always call it 'sox park.'
not comiskey, not that other name - just 'sox park.'

A lex / May 19, 2004 6:50 PM

I'm gonna go with look at their birth certificates...

Scott Knitter / May 19, 2004 7:10 PM

Real Chicagoans say Shi-CAW-go, not Shi-CAH-go. And Addison sounds like "EE-uh-dis-un." And they know what it means when someone says there's a gapers block backing up traffic from the Spaghetti Bowl to Hubbard's Cave.

I think it's hilarious that the big traffic status board on the inbound Ike before the Circle often mentions Hubbard's Cave like that name appears anywhere on it. Where's Addison Creek, anyway, if I'm on the Ike? The automated traffic radio guy keeps mentioning it, and it makes me angry. There is nothing marked as Addison Creek.

christian / May 19, 2004 8:13 PM

They remember when navy pier wasn't a tourist attraction, more like a derelict hulking mass on the waterfront.

Oh yes, and of course up stairs at medusa's.

dce / May 19, 2004 8:19 PM

My test is always the old Playboy billboard that used to grace the Palmolive Building. Hef himself once hosted a television program from its top floor - Playboy's Penthouse. Entirely classy and fully clothed, it was essentially a televised cocktail party that happened to feature interesting guests and musicians.

Now, it too has fallen prey to the curse that is condominium development.

schecki / May 19, 2004 9:11 PM

Kris -

The CTA automated bus announcer dude pronounces it as "on-ORE"

Kiddo / May 19, 2004 9:51 PM


Yuri G / May 19, 2004 11:17 PM

Bloggas, please! The post above was from someone else. Let’s pay attention before you go blaming me for things. The Go Yuri! -- not from me. “Go” would imply someone rooting for Yuri. Not Yuri himself. Email? Not the same. So if you addressed Yuri during this thread, you were talking to a whole other person. Congratulations.

Second, to clarify I was mostly referring to an overall anti-burb vibe going on in LOTS of topics posted here (not just the last topic), which -- while extremely annoying coming from people who spend a lot of time supposedly seeking out diversity and patting themselves on the back for their open-minds and tolerent attitude -- is fine. Whatever. No one can crack on the ‘burbs like folks who grew up in the burbs.

It wasn’t necessarily the bashing itself; I just didn’t see the necessity for the negativity when the topic called for FAVORITE places. Lots of you had already spent enough time with the negatives in the past, it was a great disappointment to see it (starting to) continue under what was supposed to be a positive topic. Also, I felt such negativity would keep many people who were actually living in the suburbs and might have useful information from posting for fear of public ridicule. It was frustrating; I stated my frustration. And I am glad it helped to drop some of the pretension that roams these boards and people could break out of the ridiculous “culturally sophisticated” profile one must fit to be a regular ‘round these parts. You know, where peer acceptance dictates taste. Like... Why else would someone be closeted about eating at a chain restaurant of all things? Who cares? Eat what you like and quit worrying about the urban hipster formula where IKEA = acceptable example of consumer culture! OLIVE GARDEN= not acceptable!

Topic: I agree with whoever said native Chicagoans throw vanity out the window in the name of warmth. Also, I don’t necessarily think knowing about/going to the BOZO show or Medusa’s or some of these things makes you a CHICAGO native; it pretty much makes you a Northern Illinois native. Anything on TV (Bozo) or advertised on TV or radio (Jewel, Dominick’s, Medusa’s, traffic (Ike, Kennedy etc) reports etc.) all stretch well into the 630, 708, 815 area codes in suburban and even rural areas. So even if they didn’t grow up in Chicago propa, these are things many people are still well familiar with.

Carly / May 19, 2004 11:20 PM

Most younger people who live in Wrigleyville aren't native Chicagoans. I don't say this to bash them. I just find a lot of folks from Ohio and especially Michigan tend to move there as their first Chicago residence.

Personally, I grew up in the burbs and didn't move into the city til '99, so I'm not a native by any means. It's taken me forever to figure out street names and block numbers, so I'm impressed by anyone who can easily figure out where places are just by giving them an obscure intersection.

Actually, my parents are, and they don't know the CTA by the colors, like someone mentioned before. That tells me they are pretty hardcore. Or that Lincoln Park High School used to be Walter Mather's and that Lane Tech used to be boys only.

BTW, I hate when people call it JewelS!

Benjy / May 19, 2004 11:33 PM

Knowing about Bozo Buckets isn't enough... to truly be a native you must have been on the Bozo Show and played Bozo Buckets or another one of their games. I played Leap Frog on the Bozo Show in 1986 and got my GI Joe toy and giant box of Archway cookies!

Veeal / May 20, 2004 9:09 AM

Real Chicagoans say Shi-CAW-go, not Shi-CAH-go. And Addison sounds like "EE-uh-dis-un."

i dunno, my whole family has been living in Chicago since my great-great grandparents 'got off the boat' and we all say 'shi-CAAH-go'. I'm with you on the 'Addison', tho. Only people from chicago can take a name like 'Val' and turn it ino 'Veeeal'.

Haha, and I was totally on the Bozo Show when I was younger. We taped it, so I can look back fondly at the camera panning over me in the crowd, cause I didn't get picked to play anything :(

Pete / May 20, 2004 9:28 AM

Either "Sox Park", or "Cominskey."

jennifer / May 20, 2004 10:06 AM

Native Chicagoans will remember when 312 wasn't just the downtown area code. I grew up on the South Side with a 312 area code, and still catch myself dialing it when I call family.

Scott Knitter / May 20, 2004 10:10 AM

I think people who say "Jewel's" might be from Michigan, where apostrophe-s is added to just about anything: "My dad works on the assembly line at Ford's."

I live next to da Jewel at Clark and Division.

vinny / May 20, 2004 10:59 AM


Louis / May 20, 2004 11:28 AM

They know Madison and State are the dividing streets between N/S and E/W respectively. Also they remember when the whole area was area code(312), and they refer to suburbanites as "708s" which was the first extra area code. None of this 773 847 BS.

miss ellen / May 20, 2004 12:22 PM

312! ah, those were the days....

chris / May 20, 2004 12:23 PM

Natives don't rush to the grocery store at the first hint of inclement weather. We know that it can hit at any time, and are usually prepared in some way for it. We are also not afraid to drive in any sort of precipitation. I moved to Alabama a few years ago, and it's funny to hear of grocery stores wiped out of everything and the expressways closed because of a little ice.

FWIW, the grammar quirks in Chicago (ending sentences with prepositions, going "by" anywhere rather than "to", etc.) are nothing compared to the horrendous grammar down here. "Fixin" and "y'all" put me over the edge. And, no one can explain to me how the phrase "might could" differs from either "might" or "could." Must get out of Alabama soon.

haydn / May 20, 2004 12:33 PM

native Chicagoans in their 20s, 30s (at least me) gape in awe (not disgust, okay, most of the time) at gentrification of formerly rundown areas. I remember the gang members constantly posted up on Lemoyne and North off Damen in Wicker Park in the late 80s/early 90s, and devising ways to walk around them as a little kid when I was down there. Or all the Latin Eagles in Lakeview until the mid-90s. I could go on and on, but I'll stop so as not to bore anyone. native Chicagoans (okay, just me and Jack Clark) dream of moving back one day to the areas of town their older relatives talk fondly about, like Austin or South Shore. they also jaywalk obsessively and pretend the CTA hasn't banned walking between cars with those stupid, easily subverted contraptions.

non-native Chicagoans protest the Real World, whine about the gentrification of neighborhoods they don't know the history or previous ethnic make-up of, and act like they are the only middle-class people who deserve to live outside of some nonexistent yuppie boundary, and that those who come later are like settlers in Gaza. Either that or they live happily in Lincoln Park and its environs among people like themselves (as if that hasn't happened in every corner of Chicago for 150 years) and don't have the time or energy to concern themselves with all-important, up to the minute mental maps of neighborhood authenticity.

'That Ian' / May 20, 2004 1:14 PM

I don't know -- I'm a transplant, as I suspect most of you are. YOU ARE ALL FAKERS, I SEE THROUGH THE LIEEEEEEES!

*puts on the flame-retardant suit*

Mavy / May 20, 2004 1:23 PM

what haydn said.

Cinnamon / May 20, 2004 1:33 PM

Chris, we've got "fixing to" in Chicago as well, but it's pronounced "fina". Why bother with the extra syllables?

Doug / May 20, 2004 2:36 PM

As far as I can tell, pop is a fairly new development -- my dad grew up on the west side saying soda. As for ending sentences in prepositions, that's general colloquial English . . . it's "come with" that's the clincher. The true test is whether you know that District Attorneys are called States Attorneys, and that Rockford is "downstate."

Oh, and the best Chicago accent word ever (I don't have one myself, since I grew up in DuPage County and the nuns beat my dad's out of him) has to be luh-MAHN' (Lemont).

brian / May 20, 2004 2:54 PM

Nope. I think DezPlainez is the winner.

jennifer / May 20, 2004 2:59 PM

Rockford isn't downstate. It's over.

jennifer / May 20, 2004 3:00 PM

Rockford isn't downstate. It's over.

sarah / May 20, 2004 3:22 PM

real chicagoans know all the hundreds for all the streets and actually use them to navigate and measure distances.

heather / May 20, 2004 3:24 PM

I'm with you and yer dad, Doug - I've been a 'soda' gal my whole life, and I'm a chicagoan, born of chicagoans.

all this talk of Medusas has me reminiscing when you could only access the Alley through the Alley.

Bored / May 20, 2004 3:30 PM


thatbob / May 20, 2004 3:40 PM

Just wanted to point out that all of the Shi-CAH-go speaking patterns you're all describing (da hard ESS, da nasal AH, etc.) are pretty much Chicago White Guy/Gal speaking patterns, and are pretty widespread t'roo-out Nordern Illinois and around da Lake into Michigan. The strongest case I know is my friend Laura from Aurora.

Meanwhile, plenty of African American Chicago natives speak nothing like that, not to mention first and second gen Asians, Hispanics, Slavics, Africans, etc.

(One thing that has leapt out at me eavesdropping on our sistahs on the south side busses is the pronunciation of "huh" for the pronoun "her." Everywhere else in the English speaking world, lazy speakers drop the "h" and call her "'er". Do all those H's find their way here to reconnect with "her" and become "huh"?)

Anyway, I recently learned how to tell a native Chicagoan from a non-native. And I learned it from a Gaper's Blocker, so I'm loathe to steal his thunder, but it works. A native Chicagoan, once you start to display any amount of Chicago cred (by knowing street names, the names of your aldermen, the name of his alderman, under what circumstances these aldermen were appointed, names of buildings, former names of buildings, dead ward bosses, and other bits of history and trivia) will always ask you where you went to school. That's when you know you're dealing with a native, and not another transplant (like me) who's just really interested in local detail and local history. Almost immediately after I learned this trick, a guy on the bus asked me where I went to school. Now I'm going to have to figure out what school I *would* have gone to, if I had gone to school here, to see if I can pass myself off as genuine. I'm thinking maybe St. Ben's?

Ian / May 20, 2004 3:58 PM

Haha, fronch room

miss ellen / May 20, 2004 4:07 PM

thatbob --- don't you mean parish?

haha, naw, that's a south side thing (mostly down in beverly & those surrounding areas). all us CrAzY catholics ;p

i agree, new topic, and not about the city or the 'burbs.

Gene from Lemont / May 20, 2004 4:14 PM

Paulina, Lunt - any others (streets that rhyme with . . .)?

Shaapin' at Jewels for pop, the old house brand was: Yummy! If you brought Yummy to Little League when it was your turn for pop, your family was cheap!

Still making fun of long-departed coaches: Yeah he's got an ankle . . .

dce / May 20, 2004 4:24 PM

Bob: Lane Tech - it's huge. Just about anyone *could* have gone there. Senn and Amundsun are good choices too.

Just don't say your parents moved to the suburbs when you were 13 so you could go to New Trier. That'll get your ass kicked every time.

Um . . . so I've been told . . .

Mike / May 23, 2004 12:19 PM

Non-natives always refer to Soldier Field as "Soldier Field."

... as opposed to?

Vit / May 25, 2004 6:39 PM

Where's somewhere else,? I've never been able to figure out if I'm a native or not. I was born in Chicago Heights, went to my first Sox game when I was 7 years old, and grew up thinking that parade down in Beverly was the Chicago St. Patricks Day Parade (we go every year). Of course, I did grow up in the suburbs, but spent far too much time as a teenager devising was of successfully sneaking up to Medusa's (upstairs baby), I guess I'm sort of in limbo here when it comes to the native/transplant thingie.

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