Is it "El" or "L"? Here's the CTA's answer

Last week my friends at Grid Chicago posed this question on their social media channels:

What spelling do you prefer: “L” (The official CTA spelling) or “El” (used by Time Out Chicago and other publications)?

The CTA replied via it Twitter account:

@gridchicago ‘L’ is correct use, dates back >120 yrs in Chgo; “el” is generic abbrev. for “elevated,” ‘L’ applies to whole system. #settled

I like it. Makes sense. Yes, settled.


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  • Well, that's what VP Graham Garfield says. It isn't Also what was on the maps posted at the L stations.

    Remember what I said about El Historias?

  • "El" is also the generic Hebrew word for 'god'.
    A word commuters use in vain every time the "L" is late.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    That's true.

    And I've also mentioned the Church of No-L at 63rd and Dorchester. We sing about it every Christmas.

  • It's the L here & the El in Noo Yawk.
    Why? Because Noo Yawk has a single line called the L & we don't!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    That explains why my Noo Yawk editor made me change it from L to El in my first book!!

  • I'm glad Jack's commented on here. Kevin we were having a discussion about the CTA routes from the UC.

    Do you think that the CTA is a viable sourse for an event such as the All-Star Game? Both NHL and NBA providing visitors quick access to the city's hotspots and downtown?

    Or I mean the 'L'?!

  • In reply to Curtis Shaw Flagg:

    Let's make this clear that the context was whether an NBA All Star Game would aid the Chicago economy, given that there are few tourist attractions near the United Center, unlike the situation where everything in Indianapolis was reportedly within walking distance of the hotels and the Lucas Oil center.

    Maybe the 19 would get them from the Peninsula or Trump, but my comment was essentially would any visitor paying thousands for tickets and hotel would then use the CTA to go to the tourists attractions more distributed around the city?

    See "As I See It" "Jerry Reinsdort opposed..."

  • In reply to Curtis Shaw Flagg:

    To put this in context, look at the comments to his post here.

    The question is not so much whether the 19 bus is there, but one of economic activity whether one (especially one who reads here first) would then go to the more dispersed attractions, since there isn't that much else around the United Center.

  • It's good to have the official word. I've always called it the "L" but was never sure. Thanks for setting us straight.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Carole Kuhrt Brewer:

    Hey Karoul,
    Or should I say, "Loser" with a capital EL. You are mistaken.
    -I love boots 22

  • fb_avatar

    You can thank me for starting that argument:

  • That's how I always separated out the natives from the newbies--natives know it's "L," newbies didn't know for sure.

  • Unfortunately, when using "L" on the Net, auslanders have no idea what you're talking about. "El" is understood, no doubt because it's the NY way. So with far-flung readers, one is consigned to either use the despised "El" or boring verbosities like "Elevated Train".

  • In reply to Davis:

    Or one could use the official designation since 1924--Rapid Transit.

    After all, arguably the median strip lines are not L, in the sense of elevated.

  • It's 'L' - not "L" - according to the CTA

  • Agree that it's 'L'. But a nerdy nuance for typographers: is it a matched-pair of single quotation marks: ‘L’ (which could be interpreted as scare-quotes, or as “the quote-unquote L”), or is it a pair of identical apostrophes: ’L’ (indicating omission of letters in eLevated). One older version of the CTA 'L' logo used the latter, but most publications (including the CTA) use the former.

    I’d like to think that it’s all Microsoft Word’s fault, for auto-correcting and blurring the distinction. On the other hand, the difference between apostrophes and single quotation marks isn’t a vital burning issue for most of us. (As an old typographer, I’m still mildly annoyed to see things like “ham ‘n’ cheese” rather than “ham ’n’ cheese.” But kids today ... what can you do?)

  • In reply to skipstop:

    I love the thought that it's Microsoft Word's fault.

    But yes, it is 'L' with single quotes.

    Please pardon my headline.

  • The definitive history is Bruce G. Moffat's "The 'L': The Development of Chicago's Rapid Transit System, 1888-1932" (Chicago: CERA, 1995). That should settle the question.

  • If "El" is for elevated, what is it when it makes subway stops and ride along the Kennedy and other expessways?

  • In reply to IKESENIOR:

    That is why it's not the "El" it's the 'L'

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