I grew up on the Southside of Chicago. It’s where I mastered the English language. Or maybe I should say, “It’s where I mastud du English language.” And this gets to lesson one on understanding Chicagoese.
1. Replace “Th” with “D.”
· This is simple to do. You don’t say “them” you say “Dem.”
· You don’t say “those” you say “dose.”
· Never say “the,” say “da.”
· The same goes for words like “dese,” “deres,” and “dat’s.” If you haven’t figured out that replacing a “d” with a “th” allows for translation you don’t have a chance on the southside which is actually referred to as the “soutside.”
· That whole “th” thing is tough for us “soutsiders.” In fact, Mayor Daley Sr. said it best when he spouted at the height of the 1968 riots, “The police aren’t here to create disorder, the police are here to preserve disorder.” All of us in Chicago knew what he meant. The global press had a field-day with the quote.
2. When in doubt about something. Make it up.
· If you can point at something and don’t remember what it is – just say, “Hand me that ‘whatchamacallit.”
· If you are assembling something and can point to a part or piece – just say, “Give me that ‘thingamajig.”
3. If you see a friend you say, “How ya doin’.” But it’s not a question, it’s a statement that should be responded to with, “How ya’ doin’.” Which is also not a question.
4. When you want to get someone’s attention at a distance or in a large crowd you holler, “Yoo-ooh-whoot!” Trust me on this one, it works every time. My mother taught this call to my daughter. Years later we were at my youngest son’s high-school graduation. There were close to 5,000 people gathered in all directions across 5-acres of grass and trees, and I couldn’t find my daughter nor her husband and my granddaughter. Suddenly, off in the distance – I heard the call, “Yoo-ooh-whoot.” I turned and answered and within seconds we found each other. Who needs cell-phones when you got the Chicago-call workin’ for ya’?
5. Never say, “You,” say “Youse” as in, “Hey youse guys. Get the da heck over here.”
6. If you’re a young kid and want to see if a kid can come out and play you don’t ring the doorbell or knock. You sing a song. I remember my good friend Danny who lived next door. When I wanted to play, I sang the song. It goes like this: “Yo-oh Dan. Yo-oh Danneee. Yo-oh Dan. Yo-oh Dannee.” Trust me on this one, Danny will come out soon.
Of course you don’t have to follow any of these guidelines if you’re new to Chicago. They’re nice people and will probably tolerate you’re inability to speak “Chicagoese.” They just might laugh at you a bit if you don’t know “da” lingo.