Archive for October 2011

Da city dat works

7 October 2011
Categories: Chicago

There’s a famous quote by longtime Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, spoken to the press during the mayhem in the midst of the 1968 Democratic Convention:

“Gentlemen, get the thing straight once and for all: the policeman isn’t there to create disorder—the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

It’s a popular quote among many factions. Those who view the chaos in the summer of ’68 as a “police riot” will cite the quote as an example of a brutal fascist’s detachment from reality. Fans of the late mayor, or those taking a broader view of Chicago history, are amused by it: “oh, that Boss and his malapropisms,” they’ll say.

But this morning my wife had an epiphany, when a different interpretation suddenly occurred to her: maybe Hizzoner didn’t misspeak—maybe we misheard him.

We’ve seen the “Superfans” on Saturday Night Live, with their famous catchphrase: “Da Bears.” And I often hear cops on the police band radio saying they’re headed to gas up the patrol car at “Nort an’ Troop”—i.e., the city maintenance facility at North Avenue and Throop Street. That hard plosive (‘d’ or ‘t’) in the place of a softer fricative (‘th’) is a large part of the Chicago patois.

So maybe what Mr. Daley said was:

The policeman is there to preserve dis order.

“Dis” as in, “this.” As in: my order, my office, my administration, my regime.

It still falls into the realm of cocky, self-confident bluster, but that was King Richard for you.