Cleveland Slang

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Cleveland Slang

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I am a transplant from New England, but I have to say I love Cleveland, Ohio, despite its bad reputation. It has all the appeal of a large city, but none of the hassles, and is home to a great art museum, shopping, professional sports, affordable housing and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And like any city, it has its unique colloquialisms and stories, so be sure to learn some Cleveland slang before you visit.

1. Cleveland's a Plum!
In the 1980s the city tried to overcome its reputation as the "mistake on the lake." The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the city's largest newspaper, ran an advertising campaign stating, "New York's the Big Apple, but Cleveland's a Plum." It never really caught on, but it still has its niche in Cleveland lingo.

2. Pop versus Soda
If you are coming to the Midwest, be prepared to label any carbonated drink as "pop." This particular nugget of local lingo takes some getting used to but it will save you some embarrassment in the fast food line.

3. Burning River
Yes, the Cuyahoga River, running through Cleveland, did catch fire in 1969 to the dismay of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce. The incident, however, has had some positive results. Randy Newman immortalized the accident in his song, "Burn On," featured in the soundtrack to the classic movie Major League. The Great Lakes Brewing Company, a local microbrewery, even makes a beer called Burning River Pale Ale. In Cleveland, this slang term has certainly made it into the mainstream.

Great Lakes Brewing Company, 2516 Market Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113; 216-771-4404; Brewpub open Mon-Thurs 11:30AM-midnight, Fri-Sat 11:30AM-1AM

4. The "Q"

This is the nickname for Quicken Loans Arena, the home of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. There is no need to pour salt on the wounded psyche of hapless Cleveland sports fans, who lost LeBron James to Miami and haven't seen a professional sports championship since 1964, by calling it anything but the "Q." It's part of our local lingo because we like to think it sounds hip.

Quicken Loans Arena, 1 Center Ct, Cleveland, OH 44115-4001; 888-894-9424

5. East Side versus West Side
Cleveland is certainly a tale of two cities. If you move here, one of the first decisions you will have to make is on which side of Cleveland to live. Like any good rivalry, there is plenty of raw emotion and strong opinions surrounding which side is best, but whether you are living in Shaker Heights on the East Side or Rocky River on the West Side, you should be prepared to use some Cleveland slang and declare yourself an "Eastsider" or a "Westsider."

6. Tennis Shoes versus Sneakers
Whether you are wearing Keds, Air Jordans, Nikes, walking shoes or actual tennis shoes, it doesn't matter, because in the local language of Cleveland, they're all called tennis shoes. This can be a transition for people used to slipping into a pair of sneakers to hit the gym. Whatever you choose to wear, don't even think of wearing your LeBrons to a Cavs game.

7. The Flats
You will often hear people wax poetic about the great times they had in the Flats. It doesn't matter that this former strip of bars, music, and eateries doesn't exist anymore; it was a source of pride for locals and remains part of Cleveland lingo. A couple of high profile drownings in 2000 and ensuing safety concerns led to the closing of many of this area's bars. The Flats existed on each side of the Cuyahoga River, but which side was better, of course, depended on which side of town you lived in.

8. "C" Town

For people outside of Cleveland, it would be easy to mistake this as the nickname for the "Windy City," Chicago. We will defend our rights to the claim of the letter "C" against all challengers. Go ahead and bring it, Cincinnati!

9. Try a Panini at Panini's
A panini is an overstuffed sandwich served on Italian bread. The sandwich comes stacked high with hand cut French fries, coleslaw, melted cheese and almost any meat. Panini's Bar and Grill is a Cleveland icon. The original Panini's opened in the Flats and has been satisfying the cravings of inebriated college kids ever since. It is a lot of food and a mess to eat, but after last call in Cleveland, nobody is looking for horseradish on your shirtsleeve.

Panini's Bar & Grill, 1290 West 6th St, Cleveland, OH 44113; 216-523-7070; Mon-Sat 11:00AM-3:00AM; Sun 9:30AM-midnight.

10. Ride RTA

Not as famous at the "Tube" in London or the "L" in Chicago, Cleveland's Rapid Transit Authority still gets you where you need to go in the city.

I hope that this guide will serve you well whether you visit our fair city for a leisurely vacation or a busy business trip. Actually, we could desperately use your business. You won't be disappointed in the city or the people here. After all, Cleveland Rocks!
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