Globalization and gentrification have sandblasted lots of local traditions in the U.S.
But there remain some holdouts.
One of the most colourful can be found in Chicago. It’s called “dibs.”
You’ve probably heard this word used in a related — but not exactly identical — context. In Chicago, it has a very specific meaning. To understand it, you should imagine the following scenario:
Eight inches of snow buried your car over the weekend. As a result, you spent all Sunday evening digging it so you can get to work the next day.
But you’ve now left your freshly groomed parking spot at the mercy of your possibly slothful neighbours, who have failed to do their own digging.
How do you hedge?
One Chicagoan has created a Tumblr account chronicling this phenomenon, which stretches back decades, and gave us permission to use some of the images compiled.
Let’s take a look.
This is the archetypal dibs: basically, you dig out some junk from your closet or basement that you can cobble together to claim the extent of your parking spot.
You try not to use anything too valuable.
A figurative element usually works.
It also helps if the object has some kind of deterrent effect.
Sometimes that deterrence gets a little intense.
These are no idle threats. Violate someone’s dibs, and they will bury you.
There are other strategies that require a bit more effort but usually reduce the odds of violation. Here’s ‘The Creeper.’
The ‘Dibs In Place’
And ‘Dainty Dibs’
As this all demonstrates, Chicagoans don’t take themselves to seriously about this, and are fully aware of dibs’ ridiculousness — and are thus capable of some honest reflection.
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