Local Life and Lore in Chicago

Live like a Chicago native by mastering the essentials of the city.
View of Downtown Chicago from Master Bedroom

View of Downtown Chicago from Master Bedroom

By: Sabrina Wu


  • Chicagoland. Used to refer to Chicago and its suburbs.
  • Downtown. For people who live in Chicago, this refers to the Loop area and Michigan Avenue. For people who live in the suburbs, “downtown” refers to any area within the city limits.
  • The Loop. Chicago’s business district. Originally named for the path the train takes, which forms a large loop in the downtown area. The term has evolved to encompass a much larger area, bounded by the Chicago River to the north and west, Roosevelt Street to the south, and Lake Michigan to the east.
  • The North Side. The area of the city that is north of the Loop.
  • The South Side. The area of the city that is south of the Loop.
  • The Mag Mile. "The Magnificent Mile" is another name for the Michigan Avenue stretch that runs just south of Lake Shore Drive and north of the Chicago River. Named for the expensive stores that can be found lining both sides of the street.
  • North Shore. Affluent suburbs north of Chicago.
  • Argyle. Name of a street that runs east and west on the North Side, where there is a cluster of Asian shops and restaurants.
  • Boystown. An area in the Lakeview neighborhood on Halsted street between Belmont and Addison, which is lined with gay bars.
  • Gold Coast. A neighborhood located along Lake Shore Drive, north of Michigan Avenue, which contains expensive homes and shops.
  • The Drive. Lake Shore Drive.


  • The "El" or "L". Short for "elevated," as in Chicago’s elevated train system, which is mostly above ground. Chicagoans refer to the train as "The L" even when it travels underground.
  • The Stevenson. The I-55 expressway within Chicago. You’ll hear this term used on the news by local traffic reporters.
  • The Kennedy. The section of I-90/94 that is north of downtown and south of the suburbs. Used by local traffic reporters.
  • The Edens. I-94 between north Chicago and the Wisconsin border. Used by local traffic reporters.
  • The Eisenhower. I-290 or "the Eisenhower Expressway." Used by local traffic reporters.
  • The Dan Ryan. The section of I-90/94 that is south of downtown and north of the Chicago skyway. Used by local traffic reporters.
  • IPASS. Pronounced "eye-pass." Drivers buy a transponder for the car that allows tolls to be electronically collected as they drive through the Chicago area’s "open road tollways." Otherwise, they have to pull off the road in many areas to pay the toll, before continuing. Cameras on the tollways capture the license plates of people who do not pull off to pay the toll, and they will be sent tickets. People who accidentally miss a toll can pay online within seven days to avoid receiving a ticket. The toll for drivers with an IPASS is half what it costs to pay at the tollbooths.
  • C.T.A. Abbreviation for the Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago’s public transportation system.
  • Metra. Commuter train used by those who live in Chicago’s suburbs. The 495-mile railroad system serves 230 stations in the Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry and Kane.


  • Crosstown Classic. The annual matchup between the Cubs and the White Sox.
  • Da. Chicago pronounciation of the article "the." For example, "the Bears" would be prononunced "Da Bears."
  • Mare. Chicago pronunciation of the word "mayor." For example, "the mayor" would be pronounced "Da mare."
  • Flat. Usually a brick building that has a separate apartment unit on each floor and a common front entrance. For example, a building with two apartment units is a "two-flat," a building containing three apartment units would be a "three-flat."
  • The Alley. A funky store at the corner of Clark and Belmont streets that has been around since 1971. Here people can buy the latest in punk, goth, alternative and rock gear.
  • The Bean. Nickname for Anish Kapoor’s stainless steel sculpture in Millennium Park, which is shaped like a kidney bean. The sculpture, "Cloud Gate," reflects the Chicago skyline and has become a symbol of Chicago since 2004.
  • The Taste. An abbreviated way of saying, "The Taste of Chicago," an annual outdoor festival where vendors of Chicago’s various cuisines gather in Grant Park for two weekends around the fourth of July.
  • Jag-Off. A vulgar insult often used by Chicagoans to refer to drivers who cut them off in traffic.   

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