Saturday, March 31, 2012

"He Went to Chicago...."

During medical school and residency, slang phrases for death were inevitable, especially amongst the surgical trainees  Thinking back, I'm wondering if a certain wild and crazy resident from Argentina named Mario K might not have invented his own terminology for the act of passing on into the great unknown. I first heard the phrase come out of his mouth and then from others who worked with him. After leaving Texas and my training roots, I never heard this expression again. A Google search for synonyms for  the verb "to die" spews forth all manner of  crude expressions as well as the more generally accepted phrases that one might hear from a funeral "departed", "passed away", or "left us".

Mario referred to the act of dying as "going to Chicago". I remember coming in for rounds one morning as an eager, yet terrified third year medical student and hearing him (as senior surgical resident) say of someone who had died during the night, "He went to Chicago".  I recalled thinking this an odd blend of disrespectful, weird, and funny, a not uncommon situation in Medicine when stress-busting humor commonly borders on the edge of decency, if not beyond. Medical types typically limit our not-so-professional-speak to times when we're in the company of others of like mind or those who wouldn't take offense. Discretion is key.

Yet, "going to Chicago" isn't really an offensive term for dying. The only question I had then, and still do is what happens if someone dies in Chicago?

**also posted at Back in the Day


  1. Another one: "He (or she) went tango Uniform."

    That one was heard often when I was in Vietnam in 69-70. Tango and Uniform were the phonetic identifiers of T and U. (Tits Up)

  2. I wonder... A reference to the fate of cattle the end of the drive?
    "Curtains" "Gone West" "Gone for a Burton" (never adequately explained, that one) "Bought the farm".
    Monty Python's famous "Dead Parrot Sketch" also provides numerous variations. French newspapers, to my initial perplexity ,tend to use "disparu" disappeared, instead of "mort", dead, except for murders and traffic fatalities.
    Until I knew better I wondered why so many French people were running away from home.


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