My grandson showed me a list of St. Louis-isms that he found online. Since I’ve lived here in River City for the last 18 years, I thought the quaint terminology might be worth a comment or two.
So here are a few expressions you might hear around town. If you don’t already use them, you might want to sprinkle a few throughout your conversation so as to better fit in.
Heard Only in St. Louis
“Where did you go to high school?” No one has asked me that question recently. It’s just as well. When I tell them Anacostia, it reveals little, or nothing, about my East Coast identify and friends.
Perhaps people ask the “High School Question” less, because so much fun has been made of the unusual conversation opener. Like Yogi Berra once said of a certain restaurant, “It’s so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.” Maybe that’s true of the overused school inquiry.
“It’s just four miles from Farty-Far” No, Farty-Far is not the name of a small grocery store chain. The first dozen time I heard this, I wanted to laugh. Maybe where you went to high school determines how you give highway direction to I-44. In the same vernacular, it means you eat your toasted ravioli with a “fark.”
“I love Ted Drewes.” Really, I though your boyfriend was named Jim.
“Let’s go to the park.” Without other specifics, this would mean Forest Park, that’s bigger in size than Central Park. “Let’s eat in the Grove” (groovy area for young people and ethnic food), or “Get a bite on The Hill” (the place for all things Italian).
“What a damn hoosier.” The term doesn’t just designate the proud citizens of Indiana. In STL the label is meant to be derogatory. Writer Elaine Viets once described a hoosier as someone who keeps a car propped up on cinderblocks in the front yard. Even so, those who keep track of such things say a “hoosierocracy” has evolved among these close knit people. Most wear the label with pride.
“I live in the Lou.” Doesn’t mean you’re suffering with IBS.
“My parents spend a lot of time at the boats.” No, the couple doesn’t own a flotilla of yachts. But they might hope to, if they hit the jackpot at one of the water-based gambling casinos.
“How about them Cards?” is not a reference to the hand you’ve been dealt.
“I live in the Loop” doesn’t mean you’re into a savvy lifestyle, though a walk along the Delmar Loop, where streetcars once made their turnaround, now has a hip feel.
Wash U shares it’s name with a local laundromat. SLU is not a reference to the old song Slue-Foot Sue, the tale of cowboy Pecos Bill and his lover.
Mispronounce these French place names and you’ll fit right in: Bellfontaine (say bell fountain). Carondelet must have a “let” on the end; not a French “lay.” Gravois ends in “voy” not “vwah.” Creve Coeur gets a “core” on the end instead of a “ker.” When you say Des Pere, make sure to pronounce the Des as “duh” not “day.”
I’m sure Auguste Chouteau, one of the city’s founders, would have pronounced his name “shoe-toe,” but his namesake street is today called “show-toe.” Goethe, a word German immigrants would have pronounced “GURR-tah,” is now “Go-thee.”
Just don’t over-Frenchify and you’ll do just find. Sometimes my high school French trips me up, but after all these years, I’m pretty well into the St. Louis vernacular.