A Dictionary for Chicago Parents (& Anyone That Wants to Understand Them!)

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Chicago’s unique vocabulary and insider references could fill up an entire dictionary. We figured it was time for an addendum just for you parents out there. Here’s a lesson in local lingo for Moms and Dads.

Dan Ryan
Everywhere else: Common names for dudes.
In Chicago: The clogged interstate where your little one conveniently decides to have meltdowns or diaper blowouts during rush hour.


photo: David Wilson via Flickr

Everywhere else: Kids that can’t sit still, no matter how many candy bribes their parents offer.
In Chicago: Old Town School of Folk Music’s music- and puppetry-filled classes that get babies and toddlers shaking their thang.

Image By Dan Kasberger, Chicago

photo: Old Town School of Folk Music

The Jewels
Everywhere else: Precious gems.
In Chicago: Where you buy your groceries. Replace “The” with “Da” on the South Side.


 photo: Jewel-Osco Facebook page

Cubs & Sox
Everywhere else: Crosstown teams that typically need minor miracles to win.
In Chicago: A fandom choice you make for your child at birth. Switching sides or choosing Wisconsin is grounds for disownment.


photo: courtesy of a Red Tricycle reader

Babies, Tots n’ More
Everywhere else: What you see at a zoo, park or Yo Gabba Gabba! concert.
In Chicago: The twice-yearly consignment sale that’s so big, Moms have gone in and come back out hours later with bouncy seats, strollers and enough clothes to dress a small village.


photo: Babies, Tots n’ More Facebook page

Everywhere else: An archaic word for “apprentice.”
In Chicago: The hospital where many bouncing babies are born.

Happy Birthday baby!

photo: bradleypjohnson via Flickr

The Bean
Everywhere else: What’s usually left ignored on a kid’s dinner plate.
In Chicago: The shiny silver sculpture that your child left a nose print on, just before you took a family selfie.


photo: Cody Austin via Flickr

Everywhere else: A acronym for what sounds like some big fancy corporation.
In Chicago: A warm group of parents (Neighborhood Parents Network) that plan events for learning and fun.


photo: NPN via Alexis Staryk Photography

The El:
Everywhere else: The 12th letter in the alphabet.
In Chicago: The elevated train system you take with your kids — but only while clinging to hand sanitizer like it’s the key to the universe.


photo: discosour via Flickr

Everywhere else: What you can blow using soapy water and a wand.
In Chicago: Lincoln Park’s magical play space and education center that delights parents through the baby and toddler years. (See also: Little Beans Cafe, Purple Monkey Playroom, Kidville, Sod Room.)


photo: Bubbles Academy

Polar Vortex
Everywhere else: Something very cold.
In Chicago: Something very, very, extremely, overwhelmingly, need-three-snowsuits-and-omg-my-eyelashes-are-frozen cold.


photo: Rob Swystun via Flickr

Everywhere else: What you say when you raise a glass.
In Chicago: A Facebook moms group that insiders rave about.


photo: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr

Everywhere else: What you do when you want to take somebody to court.
In Chicago: The large bony T.rex that greets you in the lobby of The Field Museum.


photo: Kelly Aiglon

Everywhere else: A piece of iron that attracts other iron-containing objects.
In Chicago: The type of school you become obsessed with getting your kid into when he or she is still in utero.


photo: Catherine via Flickr

The Suburbs
Everywhere else: Big yards, green grass, good schools, peace and quiet.
In Chicago: All of the above. Otherwise known as “way out there” and “the country” to city parents.


photo: LancerE via Flickr

The City
Everywhere else: Awesome architecture, exciting sports, beautiful lake, amazing museums.
In Chicago: All of the above. Otherwise known as “way out there” and “date night Mecca” to suburban parents.


photo: Nicolas Henderson via Flickr

Oak Park & Evanston
Everywhere else: Suburbs on the west and north side.
In Chicago: All of the above. Otherwise known as “still the city — really, we swear” to parents that live there.


photo: Eric Fredericks via Flickr

Do you have any additions to our dictionary? Let us know in the Comments!

— Kelly Aiglon

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