The glossary of supremely useful Chicago terms

A glossary, also known as a vocabulary, or clavis (duh), is a list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge along with the definitions for those terms. It comes in extra handy if you live in a place like Chicago, where we like to throw around words like "bags" and "wet" and you're expected to know what they all mean. So yeah, we made one.



Swedish liquor with undeniable flavors of wormwood, hand soap, and burnt zombie skin; will freely kick your mouth in the balls. Also: it somehow beat Prohibition.


The expressway path through the concrete jungle; you won’t find a finer view in a 6am cab ride home.


"Waiting for signal clearance"

"L" warning signal said in a tone that doesn’t properly match the despair you will feel when trapped underground for 30 minutes.

"Is there a Cubs game today?"

Instinctual question asked when the streets of Lakeview are overrun with traffic, arguments, and public streams of urine.


Only sensible catch-all name for soft drinks; overriding soda (tolerable) and Coke (makes absolutely no sense).


Chicago Mix

Practice of blending Garrett’s cheddar cheese and caramel-flavored popcorn into one glorious bag, the two going together much like chicken and waffles.


Bus and train fare payment system and grand experiment in privatizing public transportation that functions about as smoothly as a laptop running Windows 98.


Honor code of saving a parking spot (generally with a household object) that’s been carved from foot-high snow, the violation of which will result in great harm/passive-aggressive notes.

Wikimedia Commons


Pickled blend of sport peppers, bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, and celery that's an essential condiment and often the closest Chicagoans come to eating vegetables.


Century-old house with stone trim and a fancy offset entrance; guaranteed to give architecture groupies at least a quarter chub.


The three nice days in a row during April.

Sean Cooley

Tips and links

Holy trinity of rib tips, hot links, and fries; part of a well-balanced BBQ-only diet.

4am bar

An alternate drinking dimension where late-night becomes early morning and tacos become a viable alternative to hooking up.

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Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor, and he lives his life by Anthony Kiedis lyrics. Follow him @SeanCooley.