Spring 2012

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Illustration by Shaw Nielson

Chicago-ese: Rahm Style

Chicago politicians have added a rich layer to the English language over the years with terms like “clout”; “Machine” with a capital “M”; and “goo-goo” (goo-goo: good government types; pejorative). Now the city’s first Jewish mayor may add some of his own colorful expressions to the city’s lexicon — Yiddish words, not the four-letter kind. Here are a few Rahm Emanuel has used when there’s been a reporter around.

Explaining his relationship with his brothers:

“Every spouse not only marries her partner, she gets the other two shmegegges with us.”

Shmegegge: buffoon, idiot, fool


Campaigning for mayor last year in the crowded solarium of a senior citizens’ high-rise:

“Now, I was going to give a longer speech, but I gotta tell you something. A, you’re closing in. B, it’s warm in here, and as we like to say in the family, I’m shvitzing. I am hot.”

Shvitz: to sweat


Giving the keynote speech as mayor at the 2011 annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago:

“I know my grandfather, Herman, is kvelling.”

Kvell: beam with pride, be delighted with, revel in


After his first City Council meeting as mayor, speaking to reporters about hugging Alderman Edward Burke, believed by many to be behind the residency challenge that almost knocked Emanuel off the mayoral ballot:

“I thought it was a handshake. But that’s OK. It was a bear hug. It was like [he was] a member of the mishpocheh.”

Mishpocheh: family or extended family