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A 'Field Guide to Chicago Jagoffs' Aims To Define City's Jerks

By Casey Cora | December 26, 2014 9:27am
 The dude who blocks the doors of the "L" is a jagoff, according to writers Paul Durica and Bill Savage. 
The dude who blocks the doors of the "L" is a jagoff, according to writers Paul Durica and Bill Savage. 
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Dmitry Samarov

BRIDGEPORT — In a city teeming with selfish jagoffs, which ones merit inclusion in a special book? 

That's the challenge presented by Chicago authors Bill Savage and Paul Durica, who are soliciting contributions to their "Field Guide to Chicago Jagoffs," an upcoming collaboration they describe as "freelance urban sociology."

"A lot of people in this town have a lot of opinions about who's a jagoff and what kind of jagoffs there are, and behaviors or institutions where there are jagoffery, so this is just a chance to let a bunch of different writers have a say, a couple hundred words," said Savage, an English professor at Northwestern University, occasional columnist and longtime bartender.

Styled loosely after "An Antagonist's Guide to the A**holes of Los Angeles," which focused exclusively on modern-day jerks, the Chicago version expands its reach to include "individual, historical and contemporary jagoffs and jagoff behavior, which would maybe include something like dibs," Savage said. 

Lumpen, the Bridgeport-based politics and culture magazine, will publish the guide in February to coincide with the aldermanic and mayoral election. 

Savage, of Rogers Park, and Durica, a Pilsen-based writer and founder of the Pocket Guide to Hell tour and event group, have previously collaborated on "Chicago By Day & Night: A Pleasure Seeker's Guide to the Paris of America."

Lest anyone think there is sexual innuendo attached to the word "jagoff," the pair said they've traced its etymology and discovered that it's migrated away from any crude connotations. 

Originally pronounced "yah-goff," the word, they say, was brought over by Eastern European immigrants who settled in ethnic enclaves in Pittsburgh and Chicago. Ever since, it's evolved into a casual insult for someone who pesters and annoys. 

Still, it's a classic Chicago word, made even more grating by the hard a's that permeate our Chicago accents. 

And the city is apparently full of them.

Nominated so far: That guy standing in the door of the "L" car for a dozen stops; entrepreneurs George Pullman and Marshall Field; Wrigley Field gadfly Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers; bicyclists; "bike ninjas;" clouted Chicagoans, and Savage says, "teenaged kids on the No. 66 bus."

"My argument is, what distinguishes jagoffs from all of these other kind of annoying people is selfishness," he said. 

"That they're the only person in the Chicago that matters," Durica adds.

But the pair say the book isn't all about negativity and complaining.

They're also going to catalog the "individuals and groups responding to the jagoffery," such as social justice advocates, political coalitions and aldermanic candidates. 

"We don't want it to be an entirely negative publication where we're calling people and places out," he said. 

Yet the list for possible inclusion goes on and on. 

There's the one dude who never brings cash to the bar. The coffee shop dweller who lingers all day and doesn't tip. Unresponsive aldermen. Bros. Protesters. Writers. Hipsters. Attorneys. 

"We thought about doing it ward by ward, but we thought that was too limiting," Savage said. "Some wards, how would you even pick?"  

The "Field Guide to Chicago Jagoffs" is looking for submissions from writers across the city. Interested? Contact Durica and Savage by emailing lumpencjp@yahoo.com or check them out on Twitter @ChiJagoffsGuide

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