Chicago's words of the year
From food trucks to Theo to Rahmfather, we've had a busy, buzzword-laden 2011.
Rahmfather, Rahm's tenant, Rahm tax, @MayorEmanuel -- one way or another, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel inspired many of Chicago's buzzwords of 2011. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune)
The Oxford Dictionaries folks can have "squeezed middle," their pick for 2011's global word of the year. It refers, you've probably heard, to the segment of society most affected by recent inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending.
We've compiled our own list of words. Words that, for better or worse, capture the Chicago experience in 2011. And while occupy may be the word on the street — be that street Wall or LaSalle — no amount of tweeting or chanting or clever appropriating for Facebook ("Occupying my living room!") can give occupy the gravitas to knock Rahm off its rightly-earned perch atop our Chicago words of the year list.
Rahmfather. Rahm's tenant. Rahm tax. These are the phrases that entered our local lexicon in 2011, and what music they have been to our ears. Would a mayor by any other name — say, Jim — sound as sweet, especially when paired with "father"?
"Rahm's tenant," you'll recall is none other than Rob Halpin, the guy who flirted with a mayoral run after refusing to leave then-mayoral-candidate Rahm Emanuel's Ravenswood home, which he was paying $5,000 a month to rent. The "Rahm tax," coined by mayoral rival Gery Chico, referred to Emanuel's proposed tax on luxury services like Botox and elite health club memberships.
Even snowmaggedon and snowpocalypse, words we tossed around with abandon during the February blizzard, have faded into distant memory, while Rahm — no last name required — continues to spring from our lips.
Springing from Rahm's lips, meanwhile — at least according to Chicago Teacher's Union President Karen Lewis — are phrases that are memorable in their own right. But we can't repeat them here. To sample the flavor, though, we turn to @MayorEmanuel, another phrase that captures Chicago in 2011. The Twitter handle (which actually began in 2010) offered a hilarious, fictional rendering of the soon-to-be-mayor's rhetorical flourishes and eventually became the stuff of a book, "The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel" by Dan Sinker (Scribner).
For culinary types, the essence of 2011 is captured in food trucks, the ultimate melding of celebrity chefs, local politics and Chicagoans' unquenchable desire to consume food on sidewalks. The things are rolling through city streets now (though it's still illegal to cook on them in Chicago) and have garnered their very own following on Facebook and Twitter.
In the world of sports, the word is Theo, as in Epstein, of course. The will he or won't he. The ensuing "Theology" (study of all things Theo). The "Theo-bred manager" headlines. The Cubs new owner took about 30 seconds to become a household name in these parts. It remains to be seen whether he can turn the team around in equally respectable time.
And lest we leave the impression that Chicago politics is all Rahm all the time, we add slackluster to the list. It's a word used by Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, R-Elmwood Park, to describe the recent session of the state General Assembly, which failed to tackle the largest portions of the agenda set out by — you guessed it — Rahm.
What are your picks for Chicago's word of the year? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.