Chicago-pedia: Miscellaneous

An encyclopedia of the terms that define our city. In this edition, we cover some terms that don’t quite fit into any other category.


Florida alligator expert Frank Robb shows off an alligator he rescued overnight from the Humboldt Park Lagoon.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Some call it “Chicago-ese,” or “Chicago-speak.” Whatever you call it, we’re capturing it here, in Chicago-pedia — highlighting our local terminology and linguistic quirks (sometimes with humor and obvious exaggeration).

ALLIGATOR: 1. Name of iconic Chicago record label that features numerous blues musicians, including the incomparable Shemekia Copeland.

2. Creature unbelievably discovered in 2019 in Humboldt Park lagoon. Its nickname: Chance the Snapper.

ORD: Mysterious abbreviation placed on luggage passing through O’Hare Airport. The non-intuitive airport code refers to O’Hare’s roots, when it was known as Orchard Place Airport/ Douglas Field in the 1940s. The airfield was built in an unincorporated area named Orchard Place and used initially by Douglas Aircraft, which built World War II cargo planes there. The land was later deeded to the city, which renamed it in 1949 for Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward “Butch” O’Hare, a pilot who shot down five Japanese planes to save the USS Lexington in 1942.


Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward “Butch” O’Hare.

Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

CHICAGO TIME: The time zone that includes much of the Midwest and a good chunk of the South. Also known as “Central Time.”

OLG: Nickname for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church in the South Chicago neighborhood. Founded in 1923 as the city’s first Mexican parish, it features the internationally known National Shrine of St. Jude, the patron saint of difficult cases. Not to be confused with OLV or OLPH, other local Catholic church abbreviations.

THE MIDDLE CLASS: The middle-income people who once populated Chicago’s neighborhoods, now largely filled with either poor people or rich people.


The Middle Class.

Susan Smith/For the Sun-Times

CURRENCY EXCHANGE: A stand-alone business that cashes checks, wires money, sells money orders, sends faxes and offers other services — usually from behind a glass partition. There are numerous currency exchanges in Illinois. But if you ask for a “currency exchange” elsewhere in the United States, odds are that you’ll get a blank stare ... or directions to a business that converts foreign currency to dollars. In some parts of the country, currency exchanges are called “check cashers.”

PLASTIC: What everyone’s grandparents have over their couches the entire year, except for Easter, Christmas and select other holidays.


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