Episode 57: Chicago, IL

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 57: Chicago, IL

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Now for the podcast:


Chicago is a very large city on the shores of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River in the Midwest state of Illinois. Of course, before the city grew up there, Native American tribes such as the Miami, Sauk, Fox and Potawatomi lived in that area at different times.

Chicago became an official town in 1833. Before that, there was a settlement and an army fort there. The location has always been important for water transport between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and other rivers. In addition, the telegraph and railroad stations in Chicago connected the east part of the USA to the west. The city was very important during the western expansion of the country. Because Chicago has always been such a hub of transport, many jobs attracted many people from all over the world. Therefore, labor issues have been very important in Chicago, resulting in strikes and negotiations, and often resulting in violence.

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire occurred. Legend says that a cow belonging to Mrs. O’Leary kicked over a lantern in the barn and that’s what started the fire. Whatever the cause, the fire burned for over two days because of high winds, dry weather and lots of wooden buildings. The fire destroyed about one-third of the city, killed over 200 people and left 100,000 people homeless. However, the railroads and factories did not burn, so the city rebuilt very quickly.

Chicago has several nicknames, including Second City. That’s because it was second only to New York City in population and growth. However, since 1990, Los Angeles has been second to New York in population. Chicago is also called Chi Town, using the first three letters of its name, but pronounced differently. It’s also often called the Windy City because of the strong winds that blow off of Lake Michigan. In winter, that extremely cold wind is called ‘The Hawk’.

Some facts about Chicago:

  • Migration of African-Americans from the South to Chicago around WWI gave birth to Chicago-style jazz.

  • Chicago-style pizza is deep-dish (thick crust) instead of thin-crusted like New York pizza.

  • Because of the large Irish immigrant population, St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Chicago. The river is turned green for the day.

  • From the late 1800s through the early 1900s, Chicago’s political organization had great power and a reputation for corruption. It was called the Chicago “political machine”.

  • In the 1930s, gangsters like Al Capone and John Dillinger grew famous as organized crime bosses.

  • The world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1885. It was 10 stories tall.

  • Two world’s fairs have been held in Chicago, the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition.

  • Chicago’s baseball team is the Cubs. They play at Wrigley Field. They are famous for usually losing, but in 2016, they won the championship World Series. It was the first time they’d won in 108 years.

  • Chicago’s Navy Pier is an amusement park on the site of a landmark that is over 100 years old.

  • The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago has restaurants, shops, hotels, historical landmarks and nightclubs.

  • Chicago has dozens of museums, including art, nature and history museums, as well as hundreds of art galleries, theaters and other cultural institutions.

  • A famous skyscraper, the Willis Tower, is a well-known feature of Chicago’s skyline. It is 110 stories high and was built in 1973. It was called the Sears Tower until 2009. It was the world’s tallest building for almost 25 years until the World Trade Center was built in New York.

  • Route 66 begins in Chicago.

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That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

For a free transcript and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via any podcast app.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.