How to Sound Like a Local in Kansas City

The first thing I learned when I moved to Kansas City was that I’d moved to the wrong side of a river I barely noticed as I drove across the bridge. People agreed to come visit me until I told them where I lived, a couple miles outside the city limits, in North Kansas City.

“You live north of the river?” they’d ask, mortified, and then mumble an excuse to back out. I soon found that like any city, Kansas Citians have their own quirky rules about street pronunciations, names for different neighborhoods and a long-standing, contemptuous rivalry between Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS.

If I learned to talk like a true Kansas City native, you can too. Here’s the rundown of how to stop getting funny looks or a good talking to when you say the wrong thing in Kansas City.

Know Your State.

State Line is a street name but it’s also the boundary between Kansas City, MO, and Kansas City, KS. If you move to Kansas City MO, you’ll soon grow weary of out-of-towners telling you how much they like Kansas. And you’ll really get tired of saying, “This is Missouri, not Kansas. Kansas City, Missouri.”

Just Call It “The Plaza.”

Just because the official name for Kansas City’s showpiece shopping and dining area is the Country Club Plaza doesn’t mean you’re supposed to call it that in everyday conversation. Everyone just calls this popular area “the Plaza.”

There is a Nickname For Everything.

Kansas City, KS is “KCK”, neighboring Gladstone is “Happy Rock,” neighboring Johnson County, KS is “JoCo” (pronounced joh-koh) but Johnson County Community College is inexplicably known as JuCo (pronounced Jue-koh). Kansas City, MO, is just referred to as “KC” or “KCMO.” K-Ci & JoJo is an R&B duo from North Carolina and they have nothing to do with Kansas City.

Downtown isn’t Midtown.

Don’t even think about calling Midtown “Downtown.”—it is a completely neighborhood. Also, even though the Plaza is technically in Midtown, it’s always “The Plaza” as if the area is its own little kingdom.

Raiders Haters Abound.

If you’re a true Kansas Citian, you love the Kansas City Chiefs. But that also means you despise those meanies, the Oakland Raiders. Hence, the term “Raider hater.”

Street Names Defy All Logic.

Kansas City has more than 135 miles of boulevards and parkways but there’s no rhyme or reason to when you need to say the entire name or drop half of it. For example, if you say you live off “Ward,” people in KC will look at you like you’re a true outsider. Ward Parkway is always called Ward Parkway. At the same time, J.C. Nichols Parkway is “Nichols Road.” When it comes to boulevards, just listen and learn. Linwood Boulevard is simply “Linwood” while Independence Boulevard gets called by its entire name. It makes no sense, so don’t even attempt to guess.

Kansas City Has Tall Buildings But There’s Only One Skyscraper.

That’s Winstead’s Steakburgers’ famous 64-ounce “Skyscraper,” a milkshake that’s tall enough to satisfy three or four people.

No Sneakers Allowed.

Those are tennis shoes you’re wearing, not sneakers. Only East Coasters say “sneakers” around these parts.

“Raised Royal” Doesn’t Mean You’re Rich.

If you say you’re “raised Royal,” you’ve lived in KC forever and cheered the Kansas City Royals on through good times and bad. You’re not some fair-weather fan who only gets baseball fever come playoff and World Series time.

Deb Hipp