The definitive guide to talking to a Clevelander
Okay, we lied. It’s not definitive, but it’s pretty darn good.
They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” And just like every other city filled with a diverse culture, we have a certain way of saying things and we like saying them that way.
We’ve prepared this little guide to get you familiarized with the way we talk. You’ve probably heard of most of these, but still, it pays to brush up on the lingo of the locals.
So let’s get this out of the way right now… We say “pop” here. Not soda, not cola. Sure, it’s a typical midwest thing to say, but almost exclusively and enthusiastically used especially in Cleveland.
Super nice, in fact. And not that “fake nice” you may encounter in other big cities. We make eye contact with strangers and say “good morning.” We say “excuse me,” even when someone accidentally pushes past and it’s totally that person’s fault. We say “please” and “thank you” a lot as well.
When someone says to take the Rapid, they are referring to our light rail system. There are 4 lines: The Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line, and Waterfront Line. The Red Line is probably the one you may want to pay attention to, as this one starts at Tower City Center in Downtown Cleveland and terminates at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. If you want to visit the west side market and don’t feel like taking a cab or an Uber, the West Side Market, the first stop on Red Line will deliver you right next to the market.
When addressing a group of people, we say “You Guys,” even when addressing girls, even if the speaker is a girl addressing another group of girls.
“Y’all” is not a thing up here, and “Yinz” is a dead giveaway that you’re from Pittsburgh.
West Side, East Side
We all generally identify ourselves as West Siders or East Siders, but most of us don’t actually reside in the city proper. We are referring to whichever eastern or western suburb we live in. And for the record, whichever side of the river we call home, our side is way better than the other side. And we almost never ever visit the other side of the river unless we have to.
Mistake on the Lake/Burning River Jokes
Just don’t. We don’t laugh at those jokes, and we will probably throw you into said river or lake.
“It’s about 20 minutes away.”
We tend to measure distance in time; plus, everything seems to be about 20 minutes away. It’s crazy, but it’s actually pretty darn accurate.
Another little midwestern idiosyncrasy, that little strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street is a tree lawn. It’s not a berm, it’s not a parkway, nor is it a parking strip. If someone refers to it as a devil’s strip, it means you’re in Akron and are totally lost.
If someone asks if you’ve tried a Polish Boy yet, they’re not hitting on you. We love our sandwiches here, and a Polish Boy is a guilty mess of a sandwich made out of grilled kielbasa, a layer of French fries, doused in either barbeque sauce or hot sauce, and topped with coleslaw, all stuffed into a long bun. Not for the faint of heart.
The Pee Dee
We are referring to the Plain Dealer, our local newspaper and Ohio’s largest.
That most delicious, eastern European dumpling, usually filled with mashed potatoes, but sometimes with cheese, sauerkraut and other sweet or savory fillings. We take them pretty seriously around here. Almost always served with a lethal dose of melted butter and sautéed onions and a dollop of sour cream.
Apparently, non-Clevelanders have noted that we pronounce “Milk” as “Melk.” Honestly, we don’t hear the difference.
Our ballpark and home of the Cleveland Indians. Originally opened in 1994 as Jacobs Field (named after Cleveland Indians owner Richard Jacobs), the ballpark was renamed to Progressive Field in 2008. Most Clevelanders will slip up and still call it “The Jake,” because it’s less of a mouthful, and “The Prog” just sounds weird.
“The Q” and “The Gund”
The Q and the Gund are the same place. Quicken Loans Arena is our multipurpose venue, largely known as the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but also home to the Cleveland Monsters (American Hockey League) and Cleveland Gladiators (Arena Football League).
Named after former Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund, the arena originally opened in 1994 adjacent to The Jake – I mean, Progressive Field. Gund Arena was renamed Quicken Loans Arena in 2005.
Factory of Sadness
Look, we love our football, it’s just… We don’t want to talk about it. Maybe next year.