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Harrowing but compelling look at growing up mixed race in Baltimore.
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August 3, 2006

How to speak Bawlmerese

If you are moving to Baltimore or living here, or just a toorst (tourist) or day-tripper from Warshinn (Washington, D.C.), you will quickly realize that English as she is spoke here has a number of charming variations to standard American English.

Here are some of the main examples of Baltimorese.

  1. Terms of endearment

    "Hon" is short for "honey" and replaces mister, miss, missus and an actual name when greeting someone. We can't imagine why anyone would find this sexist! Folks are just trying to be friendly.
  2. Places

    Let's start with Bawlmer, Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland), Queen City of the Greater Patapsco Drainage Basin, which has neighborhoods such as Haw'n'tin (Highlandtown) and Lit-lit-lee (Littly Italy).

    Suburbs where residents speak fluent Baltimorese include Dundawt (Dundalk) and Glimm Burney (Glen Burnie), which is in Anarun'l Cownie (Anne Arundel County).

    Further away, you might head Downey Ayshin (down to the ocean, that is, Ocean City) and even to Yorp (Europe).

  3. Your first complete sentence

    Worsh and wrench your hands in the zinc *

    * Wash and rinse your hands in the sink.

    turlits.jpgBaltimorese contains not only place names but many common nouns. Around the house, an old-timer might talk about winders (windows) and the turlit (toilet) and tals (towels) in the baffroom.

    Over in the kitchen, you might want aigs and arnjuice for brefist (get the idea?).

    What's that noise outside? It might be an ambolamps (ambulance), farn gin (fire engine) or pleese sarn (police siren).

    "Turlits" photo taken at the 2005 Honfest by Raymond Cheong. Used with permission.

  4. Driving directions

    If you get on B'lare Rowd (Belair Road), you can head right out to Horfud (Harford) Cownie.

    If you're trying to get to Fait Street in Cayntin (Canton), you better write that down, because that will sound just exactly like Fayette Street. Or you can head toward Haird, better known as Howard Street, a one-time shopping mecca.

  5. Expressions

    If you really agree with all your heart with someone, say, "Ain't it?"

    When asked what you think of a movie, whether you thought it was fabulous, terrible, or average, you can say, "S'aw-ite" (it was all right).

    "Jeet?" (did you eat), "jeet-nuf?" (did you eat enough), "waymint!" (wait a minute) and "wooja ..." (would you) will carry you a long way. What to know what's new with somebody? Try, "snoo few?"

More resources, hon

Jeannette Belliveau

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