Words You Didn’t Know Came From Chicago


Chi Town, The Big Onion, The Windy City. Call it what you will, Chicago is home to a herd of sports teams that could fill a zoo—the Cubs, the Bears, and the Bulls (and, oh yeah, the White Sox too). Not to mention it’s the land of deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs. It’s a fantastic city filled with museums, shopping, and industry.

This midwestern metropolis is also responsible for adding some pretty cool words and phrases to our language too. Here are eight words you probably had no idea originated in Chicago.

Pipe Dream

Is Trump’s border wall a pipe dream? Time shall tell, but
pipe dreams
have been in the pipes for decades now.

Originally referring to “the hallucinations one gets when smoking opium from a pipe,” the phrase was first used in print by the Chicago Tribune in 1890 when describing aerial navigation. Some pipe dreams clearly do come true.


Next time you take your car in for a wash, ask them to
it as well. This verb, which means “to shine or polish to a high sheen, especially with wax,” sounds a whole lot snazzier than just “put an extra coat of wax on it,” no?

It comes from a type of car polish invented by George Simons of Chicago in 1910.


Oh, please, even if you’ve never written this nicety like this, we’re guessing
has come out of your mouth on occasion.

And we have Chi Town to thank for this quirky little twist, as it first reportedly appeared in print back in 1927 in the Chicago Tribune from a reader pleading for the paper to print her letter.  

Bum rap

Whether or not Goop’s Gwyneth Paltrow gets a
bum rap
or not is up for debate. This noun, however, goes way back to the early 1900s and sprang from underworld slang. The Chicago Tribune first put it in print in 1913.


We’re not talking about the mouse, but rather someone slipping you a
, which is no one’s idea of fun.

While there’s some debate as to where the word came from, many Chicagoans claim it comes from a bar owner there named Mickey Finn, who used to drug his customers’ drinks in order to steal their money. Classy.


One of those words that makes your tongue tingle with fun, the noun
is frequently associated with jazz music.

Its origin, however, is credited to Chicago writer George Ade who first used a slightly altered spelling of it to refer to the flu: “Mr. Grip Razmataz,” and then started using it as we do today for “something sensational.”


Every good park needs a
, and kids monkeying around across the country can thank Chicago for that.

Though used as a common noun today, it actually stems from a Chicago-based company named Junglegym that created and patented the first junglegym in 1920.


Stemming from the acronym for young urban professional,
has a bit of nicer ring than its predecessor,
, which is short for young upwardly mobile professional.

While there’s nothing wrong with being young and doing well, the term is used derogatorily more often than not. While there’s some debate about exactly where the word came from, it was first used in print in 1980 by Dan Rottenberg in Chicago Magazine.Ever wonder what words originated in the Big Apple? We did too, which is why we wrote: “Words You Didn’t Know Came From NYC”

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