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September 4, 2012

Welcome to the windy city

by dan rodriguez


This week, we kicked off orientation for our new JD, AJD, JD-MBA, and LLM candidates.  It was my first Northwestern Law orientation as well.  Our incoming students bring with them a diverse array of experiences. They include accomplished athletes, musicians, artists, actors, engineers & scientists, doctors, computer programmers, financial managers, accountants, teachers, consultants, entrepreneurs, government policy researchers, committed volunteers for the disadvantage, and more.

Since the majority of our new students come from regions outside the Midwest (hailing from 35 states and more than 25 countries), I thought this would be a good opportunity to share with them some of what I have learned about the City of Chicago.  The information offers varying degrees of utility, and appears in no particular order.

  1. Chicago streets are laid out on a grid system, with Madison and State Streets acting as the x and y axes, respectively.  If an address is 800 north, this means it is 8 blocks north of Madison.  Similarly, an address that is 400 west means it is 4 blocks west of Madison.  Chicagoans employed logic before there was GPS.
  2. Chicagoans are unwaveringly loyal to their sports teams, regardless of inclement weather conditions or mediocre records.  That being said, one cannot be both a Cubs fan and a White Sox fan.
  3. Chicago is Gotham in both Batman movies directed by Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight).



  1.  The origin of Chicago’s Windy City nickname is a topic of some debate.  While many attribute it to the city’s weather (and it can be windy), most historians claim that it originates from Chicago’s loquacious politicians of the late 19th century.  The coining of the phrase is most widely attributed to Charles A. Dana, a New York Sun editor who contested Chicago as a viable contender to host the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
  2. Chicagoans and the rest of the world differ on their pronunciation of Goethe.  While reference to the German author is “Gurrr-tuh,” many Chicagoans pronounce the street “Go-thhee.”  (The fact that the Chicago Transit Authority calls it by its German pronunciation seems to have done little to sway the masses.)  Correcting a Chicagoan’s pronunciation of the street does not make you sound well-read; more likely, it makes you sound like you’re not a local.

(thanks to our new special assistant, Kate Schulte, herself a Chicago native, for her help with this post)

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