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chicagoed
Posted: 30 January 2011 04:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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To “Chicago” is a familiar term in 19th century baseball, meaning to shut out (i.e. to prevent the other side from scoring at all).  The proximate origin is also straightforward.  A new professional club was organized in Chicago for the 1870 season with much fanfare, but disappointing results.  On July 23 of that year they were defeated by the Mutuals of New York by a score of 9-0.  Shutouts were virtually unheard of at that time.  This was changing with various innovations in rules and playing techniques, but this was not generally realized at the time.  So the baseball world was quite impressed by the feat, and delighted that it was the over-touted Chicago club it happened to.  Within a week the usage was coined of being “Chicagoed” and this was a common usage into the early 20th century.

This is all well known to the half dozen of us interested in such things.  But I was recently searching through genealogybank and stumbled across some earlier, non-baseball usages which are similar.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer of May 4, 1860 has a political story about a successful Democratic convention in New York which, it claimed, outshone an earlier Republican convention in Chicago.  The headline includes “Chicago Chicagoed!” The New York Times of April 18, 1868 reports on the repeal of a New Jersey registry law.  It includes this:  “Except through fraud, the leaders of the Democratic Party cannot carry a single Northern state for their Presidential candidate.  They don’t want to be ‘Chicagoed’ and so New Jersey is to be made the theatre of unrestricted rascality at the polls.”

These suggest that the baseball usage was an adaptation of an existing idiom, but I can’t fathom the origin of the older usage.  Any ideas?

Richard Hershberger

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Posted: 30 January 2011 07:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Berrey and Van Den Bark’s 1945 American Thesaurus of Slang lists the verb to Chicago meaning “to murder, kill.” That’s the only reference I could find to a sense that might work in those contexts. I have no idea when the term was current, it may be from much later, say the 1920s and the era of Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and prohibition.

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Posted: 31 January 2011 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Chicago has an interesting political history.  Perhaps it was something to do with the 1855 Lager Beer Riots or the 1860 Republican National Convention or something like that. We seem to be looking for something so famous that it’s been forgotten at least twice! ;)

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Posted: 31 January 2011 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Interesting.  Note the misinformation purveyed in Maitland’s 1891 American Slang Dictionary (p. 64):

Some years ago Chicago had a base-ball club which met with phenomenal success. Other competing clubs which ended the game without scoring wore said to have been “Chicagoed.”

Maitland was presumably not a sports fan.

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Posted: 31 January 2011 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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languagehat - 31 January 2011 07:24 AM

Interesting.  Note the misinformation purveyed in Maitland’s 1891 American Slang Dictionary (p. 64):

Some years ago Chicago had a base-ball club which met with phenomenal success. Other competing clubs which ended the game without scoring wore said to have been “Chicagoed.”

Maitland was presumably not a sports fan.

He may not have been a sports fan and he may have his story backwards on the origin of the phrase in the base ball world, but he seems to have a better handle on the relative success of the 1870 Chicago White Stockings.  They had a 22-7 record against other professional teams and a 65-8 record overall, at least according to this site.

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Posted: 31 January 2011 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Faldage - 31 January 2011 05:19 PM

languagehat - 31 January 2011 07:24 AM
Interesting.  Note the misinformation purveyed in Maitland’s 1891 American Slang Dictionary (p. 64):
Some years ago Chicago had a base-ball club which met with phenomenal success. Other competing clubs which ended the game without scoring wore said to have been “Chicagoed.”

Maitland was presumably not a sports fan.

He may not have been a sports fan and he may have his story backwards on the origin of the phrase in the base ball world, but he seems to have a better handle on the relative success of the 1870 Chicago White Stockings.  They had a 22-7 record against other professional teams and a 65-8 record overall, at least according to this site.

It’s a fair point, but not quite that clearcut.  The club was explicitly founded to compete at the top level.  Those amateur games were almost entirely against cannon fodder.  Of the professional games, only about half the victories were against legitimately top clubs (based on a quick check in Marshall Wright’s “The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870”.) (Keep in mind that there was no league yet.  Scheduling was entirely ad hoc.) That still leaves them with a thoroughly respectable record at the top level of competition, which is better than I remembered as I neglected to actually check.  They were heavily hyped going into the season, and the perception was that they didn’t live up to it.  But of course perception and actual records don’t always match up. 

As for Maitland’s error, it was common at the time.  I don’t know who first made it, but it was a natural mistake.  The Chicago club was a powerhouse dynasty in the 1880s.  The long history of futility was a 20th century (and later) phenomenon.  It would have seemed odd in the 1890s to associate Chicago baseball with a notably poor performance.

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Posted: 31 January 2011 08:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Apparently the version Maitland was familiar with, is still being used.  There is a hockey article from December 24, 2009 lamenting the Detroit Red Wings being “Chicagoed” by the Black Hawks, 3-0.  The writer explains “More than 100 years ago, the term shut out hadn’t been created in baseball. Instead, not being able to score was called being “Chicagoed,” in honor of the club that produced one of the first white-washings in professional baseball history.”

http://www.theoaklandpress.com/articles/2009/12/24/sports/doc4b335df8afe62242063464.txt?viewmode=fullstory

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Posted: 31 January 2011 10:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It may be (it probably is) a complete coincidence, but I notice that the first quote in the OED for the use of the expression “to be whitewashed” meaning “to fail to score against opponents who themselves scored (heavily)” is from a Chicago newspaper:

3. In Baseball and other games: To beat (the opponents) so that they fail to score. Also loosely, to beat by a large margin. colloq. (orig. U.S.).
1867 Chicago Republican 6 July 2/6 The Unions were whitewashed 3 times, and the Forest Citys 5 times.

All the same, I wonder if there is, perhaps, some association between Chicago and whitewash, so that the former became a metaphor for the latter?

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Posted: 11 January 2012 07:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Here is another possible origin:

The 1876 schedule called for 70 games, with each team meeting its seven opponents ten times apiece. The White Stockings played their season opener at Louisville, April 25, with Albert Spalding scattering seven hits to blank the southerners, 4-0. It was the first shutout game pitched in the new league [National League], with the result that shutouts were known as “Chicago games” for the next 30 years. When a team was shut out, it was “Chicagoed.”

http://research.sabr.org/journals/chicago-national-league-champions-of-1876

[ Edited: 11 January 2012 08:36 PM by rbhumes ]
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Posted: 11 January 2012 11:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I have never heard this expression before, but find it very interesting.  Its also interesting that the two baseball related origin stories proffered so far are exact opposites.  And I find it interesting that the non-baseball usage seems to be remarkably parallel in usage and meaning to the baseball usage.

In fact, the usages are so parallel that I suspect, but am of course just speculating, that the base ball usage was borrowed from the broader, more general term.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a specific base ball game involving the actual Chicago base ball team that led to the general term being extended to base ball.  So, in a sense, it may still be true that the baseball application of the phrase emerged from a specific base ball game.  Assuming this utterly unsupported speculation is true, this still leaves the question of whether the game that led to the term being applied to base ball was one where Chicago shut somebody else out or got shut out.

I’m probably reading either too much or too little into this, but based on the way the word is used in the above examples, it would make more sense to me if the “true” origin story, at least baseball wise, was that the phrase was coined when Chicago shut somebody else out, rather than it coming from Chicago getting shut out.  The three usages I see are: “To Chicago” means to shut somebody else out (and beat them handily).  If I am shut out, I “got Chicagoed”.  If I shut somebody else out, I “Chicagoed” them. 

If the term came from Chicago getting shut out, I would expect the gerund “to Chicago” to mean something like “to choke” (i.e, to score no runs).  Since “to Chicago” is to beat another team handily, the sense seems to be that Chicago is the shutter outer, not the one who got shut out. 

The fact that “getting Chicagoed’ means “getting shut out” doesn’t really cut one way or the other: it seems to me that it is never a good thing in any sports metaphor to be the person or team who is on the receiving end of an active verb.  Even with the example of “choking”, an active verb which is commonly used when commenting on sports and which has a very negative connotation, you still wouldn’t want it said that your team “got choked” (I’m not even sure what that would mean, metaphorically speaking, but I’m sure that it would be bad).  Similarly, the fact that “Chicagoing” another team means you are beating them doesn’t really shed light on whether the origin is Chicago winning or Chicago losing, since, either way, you want your team to be Chicagoing somebody else, not to be the one that got Chicagoed.  In fact, even if I had absolutely no idea what the term meant, if somebody asked me if I’d prefer it if my team Chicagoed somebody else or got Chicagoed, I would be pretty comfortable guessing that I would rather that we Chicagoed the other team. But the fact that the “gerund” form of the word, to Chicago, means to shut somebody else out, seems to me to support the story that it comes from Chicago shuttting somebody else out.

Although this still doesn’t really resolve anything, I think the non-base ball uses that were quoted also support the idea that in this expression, Chicago is the metaphorical trouncer, not the trounced.  There is some convoluted logic in this, but I think it follows.
In one of the non-baseball examples, a New York newspaper headline triumphantly cries, “Chicago Chicagoed!” and proceeds to tell a story of it (New York) outperforming Chicago.  In this example, the reference to “Chicago” is literal, but the reference to it being “Chicagoed” is metaphorical.  The article seems to be taking great delight in the fact that, at least according to this writer, New York outdid Chicago at the very thing Chicago is known for being great at.  The writer also seems to me to be punning on the literal and metaphorical senses of Chicago - of all the cities that New York might aspire to “Chicago” (i.e., to out do), what greater victory would there be than to Chicago the actual Chicago?  If the origin of the phrase came from the actual Chicago floundering badly at something (whatever that might be), then the newspaper’s crowing of, “Chicago Chicagoed!”, would be a lot less amusing.  Indeed, there would be nothing newsworthy about Chicago being Chicagoed if Chicago is known for being Chicagoed.

Or maybe the baseball usage of the term came from Chicago being shut out, but it was originally used ironically.  In other words, Chicago gets clobbered 9 to zero, and a Chicago sports fan sadly sighs, “oh yeah, we really ‘Chicagoed’ those guys, didn’t we.  I hope we ‘Chicago’ Baltimore next week.” The speaker in this example would be turning the non-baseball sense of the word on its head: Chicago has gone from the metaphorical trouncer to the metaphorically (and literally) trounced.  The ironic application of the term is forgotten over time (and, still later, the term is almost completely forgotten).

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Posted: 12 January 2012 04:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The Dickson Baseball Dictionary calls the 1876 origin story “baseless,” and it gives an 1870 citation of use referring to Chicago’s loss to the N. Y. Mutuals to prove it.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Furthermore, the idea that someone in the early 21st century can sit around and cogitate what the origin must have been without doing any actual research is equally baseless.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Ouch.  Well said.  Baseless cogitation withdrawn.  My speculation has been thoroughly chicagoed.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Sorry, didn’t mean to be quite so harsh.  It’s always fun to speculate; it was just that your speculation had been pretty much pre-refuted by the thread.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I decided to try something new and do at least a bit of research about the word.  I think Zythophile has the right idea about a non-baseball origin.  According to wordnick, one definition of chicago is a term in card playing, meaning to stop another player from scoring.  It lists white wash and skunk as synonyms for Chicago in this sense.  The city of Chicago, per dictionary.com, is derived from an algonquin word for either skunk or fox.  This is still speculative, but it is easy to imagine “Chicago” becoming a synonym for skunk in the cards sense (by way of the Algonquin possible origin of the city name), and, from there, becoming slang for shutting somebody else out in a broader sense, such as baseball and/or politics.

The baseball usage could derive either from the card usage, or the political one, or even more generally from a sense of trouncing another in any endeavor.  I can’t find a DATE for the card sense of the phrase (Chicago or skunk or whitewash), unfortunately, so this is still highly speculative, but at least with a wisp of evidence behind it.

[ Edited: 13 January 2012 08:59 AM by Svinyard118 ]
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Posted: 13 January 2012 05:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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The Dickson Baseball Dictionary calls the 1876 origin story “baseless,” and it gives an 1870 citation of use referring to Chicago’s loss to the N. Y. Mutuals to prove it.
---

Well it makes sense they’d lose if it was baseless.

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