Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Baltimore Dialect

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Everyone makes fond fun of the Baltimore accent (excuse me, Bawlmer accent), but if you’ve ever been curious about how it came about — or the difference between any American English dialect, for that matter, you will probably enjoy this intense and detailed website — consider it an accent-opedia, perhaps, complete with clips of exemplary accents (thanks, Barbara Mikulski, for ours.)

What I learned:  Baltimore’s accent is part of the Atlantic Midland subset of the larger Midland category. North of Philly, “on” rhymes with “Don”; down here, it rhymes with “Dawn.” (Personally, I can’t tell the difference — but maybe that’s because I grew up in Richmond, a “Lowland South” region.) Furthermore:  “hoarse” = “horse”; “mourning” = “morning”; “four” = “for.” And, in a strange bit of accent fact, unlike people from DC or Richmond or Pittsburgh, Baltimoreans pronounce “bad” as though it doesn’t rhyme with “had,” the same way that New Yorkers do.

If you’re an accent nerd, you can spend all morning with this map, created by an enthusiastic accent hobbyist with too much time on his hands. Ever wondered why people native to Assateague speak so distinctly? Well, the Chesapeake Islands are an “anomalous peripheral area that resisted the Southern shift.” Ah yes, of course. And (who knew!?) the San Francisco Bay turns out to be our accent neighbors (“except that ‘bad’ rhymes with ‘had'” over there — wait, it doesn’t here?). Learn more about “The Unique Position of Nebraska,” “Where do they speak without an accent?”, and “The Pin-Pen Merger, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Texas Cattle Drives.”

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