Skip to contents

These Chicago-Centric Old Slang Words Don’t Make Us Look Very Good

Have you ever heard of a "Chicago bankroll" or a "Chicago typewriter"?

Notorious gangster Al Capone.
Wikimedia Commons
  • Credibility:

This story was originally published by DNAinfo Chicago in 2016. It has been updated.

CHICAGO — It turns out getting “Chicagoed” isn’t a positive thing.

If you’re a Cubs or Sox fan who’s already been hurt too much, look away: To be “Chicagoed” is a baseball term that means to go scoreless in a game. As in, to lose. Badly. The term was included on an NPR list of American slang terms that were a hit in the 1800s but have since fallen out of favor.

If you want to put a positive spin on things, you can also “Chicago” another team, which means you’re making them lose. Whether the term is good or bad just depends on how you want to look at things: Did we get the term because our baseball teams are good or because they’re bad?

We researched Chicago-centric slang, looking for the good and the bad, and came up with these entries:

Chicago WayTo escalate things as a way to win. This is taken from “The Untouchables,” when Jim Malone advises, “You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way!”

Chicago overcoat: A coffin or casket, as in, “He was wearing a Chicago overcoat.” This harkens back to the ’20s when — and you know this if you’re a history buff — literally every person in Chicago chomped on cigars, wore fedoras, worked for Al Capone and engaged in mandatory hourly gunfights. This is also the name of a 2009 gangster film with the tagline, “The Glory Days Are Back,” since there is no prouder era in the city’s history than the ’20s.

Chicago typewriterA Thompson submachine gun that was popular during Prohibition, in case you were wondering if Chicago had a poor reputation in the ’20s.

Chicago piano: A Thompson submachine gun.

Chicago organ grinder: A Thompson submachine gun. (Are you noticing a theme?)

Chicago style: A type of jazz that is similar to the New Orleans style of jazz, but which sometimes has a “greater emphasis on individual solos, a less relaxed feeling and a somewhat smaller reliance on elements of 19th-century black ethnic music,” according to Britannica.

Alternately, “Chicago style” means a Thompson submachine gun. Of course.

Chicago pill: A bullet, presumably for your Chicago typewriters, organ grinders, pianos and styles.

Chicago bankroll: A single large bill, like a $20, wrapped around smaller bills so you can pretend like you’re carrying around bank. North Side grandfathers do this, but in reverse, so they can pretend they’re fooling would-be muggers.

Chicago contract: An oral agreement where you’re relying on each other to be honorable, which the rest of these definitions would seem to suggest would be foolish when dealing with a Chicagoan.

Chicago black and Chicago green: Types of marijuana with black and green leaves that are grown in and around the city.

Chicago rattlesnake: Salted pork.

Chicago heavy mess: Boiled salted pork. Please note it is set apart from “Chicago rattlesnake” in that it is boiled. It’s an important distinction.