Chattanooga Slang

Chattanooga Slang

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Chattanooga, Tenn., has many unique slang phrases describing areas of the city and its people. Here are ten phrases that are an integral part of the local Chattanooga slang.

1. Chattanooga

There is as much debate about the origins of the name 'Chattanooga' as there is about the Georgia-Tennessee state lines. The most accepted version is that the name comes from a Cherokee Indian word meaning "big catch", as the Scenic City is bordered by the Tennessee River. Another version states that the word comes from 'Clanoowah,' which in Cherokee local language means cliffs boldly rising out of the river. Another theory is that the name is not Cherokee at all, but Creek Indian: 'chat-to-to-noog-gee' in Creek means a rock rising to a point, which is an accurate description of Lookout Mountain.

2. The Walking Bridge

The Walnut Street Bridge was erected in 1890. When closed for vehicle traffic in 1978, the city eventually saved the truss bridge as a part of its urban redevelopment. Today, it is the centerpiece of the downtown Chattanooga riverfront area, connecting the riverfront shops, restaurants and attractions to the north shore. The views walking across the Tennessee River are breathtaking. It is the longest pedestrian walking bridge in the world and Chattanooga local lingo has deemed it "The Walking Bridge."

The Walnut Street Bridge, Walnut St, Chattanooga, TN

3. Cliff Dwellers

This neighborhood once housed some of Chattanooga's most influential citizens. It sits atop an 80-foot bluff overlooking downtown and the Tennessee River. Those who resided in this area were named cliff dwellers in Chattanooga slang. Many old homes are now inns and part of a beautiful and romantic area known as the Bluff View Art District. The majestic Hunter Mansion is home to the Hunter Museum of American Art. The area has many exquisite dining venues and art galleries and is home to a park named the River Gallery, full of local sculptures and botanical delights.

Hunter Museum of Art; 10 Bluff View, Chattanooga, TN 37403; 423-267-0968; Mon-Tue and Fri-Sat 10AM-5PM, Wed and Sun noon-5PM, Thu 10AM-8PM; $9.95 adults, $4.95 children 3-17, free for children under 3

River Gallery; 400 East Second St, Chattanooga, TN; 423-265-5033 ext. 5; Mon-Sat 10AM-5PM, Sun 1PM-5PM; free admission

4. The Bachman Tubes

This Chattanooga slang refers to the Bachman Tunnels that were built in 1929 to connect East Ridge with downtown Chattanooga on US-41. Before the construction of I-75, this was the common route to reach Chattanooga. They are one-lane tunnels built under Missionary Ridge. Never referred to as tunnels in Chattanooga local language, they are indeed round in shape, and it is advised to turn on one's car lights while driving through the tubes. There is a height limit as well, and about once a year or so, a truck gets stuck in the entrance. Other similar tunnels dot the Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain areas but are not called tubes in the local language.

5. Lake Winnie

Lake Winnie is Chattanooga local lingo for Lake Winnepesaukah, a perennial favorite of locals. It is located in Rossville, just below the Tennessee line. The amusement park has been in existence since 1925 and today still retains a family and carnival-type presence. Concerts are often held on the premises, and local companies often buy big blocks of tickets for their employees to celebrate holidays such as Labor Day. The most popular ride is The Cannon Ball, a wooden roller coaster completed in 1967. The park also has the oldest mill water chute in the country, the Boat Chute, completed in 1927. A 1916 carousel is also in the park. Winnepesaukah means 'bountiful waters' in Cherokee local language.

Lake Winnepesaukah; 1730 Lakeview Dr, Rossville, GA 30741; 1-877-525-3946; Dates and hours of operation vary – please see website before visiting; $5 gate admission, $21 unlimited ride pass, $1.00 individual ride ticket, $13 value strip of 14 tickets

6. The Strut

The annual Bessie Smith Strut is held the first Monday during Chattanooga's mid-June annual Riverbend Festival. It is named after Bessie Smith, who was born in Chattanooga and was nicknamed "Empress of the Blues." The city shuts down MLK Jr. Boulevard, as well as side streets such as Georgia Avenue and Cherry Street. It is the only free event of Riverbend and is characterized by blues and jazz music and the large variety of barbecue stands. Attendees 'strut' along, dancing up and down the streets.

7. Choo-Choo

This local landmark was made famous by the 1941 Glenn Miller song Chattanooga Choo Choo and "choo-choo" has since been enshrined in the local language. Once a very important train station in the Southeast, today it is a higher-end hotel and location for many lavish parties. Guests can even opt to stay in one of the many restored Victorian railway cars. The Choo-Choo also throws a big New Year's Eve bash yearly, drawing folks from all over to dance, drink and ring in the New Year with live band music.

Chattanooga Cho-Choo; 1400 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402; 1-800-872-2529

8. The Mountain Chattanooga

Locals will often use vague slang phrases such as "on the Mountain." This is referring to Lookout Mountain, the site of a Civil War battle. Most tourists know it as the place where Rock City, a famous attraction, resides. However, the mountain is where some of the most expensive homes in Chattanooga can be found. Half the mountain is located in Georgia, while the other half sports a Tennessee address. Many million dollar homes line the brow of the mountain. Central to all of this is the exclusive Fairyland Club, a country club where some of the fanciest parties in the region are held.

Rock City; 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750; 1-800-854-0675; Dates and hours of operation vary – please see website before visiting; $17.95 adults, $9.95 children 3-12
Fairyland Club; 1201 Fleetwood Dr, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750; 706-820-1551

9. Bea's

For over sixty years, Chattanoogans have just said "Bea's". In the local language, there is no need to add 'restaurant' to it. Bea's is a Chattanooga tradition and a staple of Chattanooga slang. Located at 4500 Dodds Avenue, Chattanooga, this restaurant is home to the best authentic Southern cooking in the area and is famous for its fried chicken. Everyone is seated at round tables sporting Lazy Susans. Each table seats around ten people and you just whirl around the buffet table to eat all you want. They refill it constantly. Barbecue, all sorts of vegetables and homemade cornbread are also on the menu. Their sweet tea is also a Chattanooga tradition.

Bea's; 4500 Dodds Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37407; 423-867-3618 10.

10. The Incline

Originally known as the Incline Railway, this innovative feat of engineering climbs the steepest part of Lookout Mountain. It was built by John Crass in 1895 to service a tourism development and hotel on top of the mountain. Prior to this, there was a toll road that took four hours to ascend. It is the steepest passenger incline in the world, with an incline of 72.7%. It is still one of the treasures of Chattanooga today.

The Incline Railway; 3917 St. Elmo Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37409; 423-821-4224; Memorial Day-Labor Day 8:30AM-9:30PM, April, May, September and October 9AM-6PM, November-March 10AM-6PM; $14 adults round-trip, $7 children 3-12 and seniors 65+ round-trip
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