Tag: accents

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Baltimore Dialect


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.”

Baldamor or Bawlmor: Say What?


UMBC recently posted a short series of podcasts exploring Baltimorese — or, in other words, a free linguistics lesson that explores the relationship between language, identity, and culture by parsing the oddness that is the Baltimore accent.

I found the mini-class through a quick search on iTunes U, a compendium of the increasing bulk of educational content available online, mostly for free. You can find classes on the Civil War, death, cocktail mixology, and, well, the Baltimore accent. These free online classes are becoming hugely popular worldwide, so much so that a fall 2011 class on artificial intelligence hosted by Stanford has more than 62,000 online students enrolled. That’s crazy, especially when you consider that Stanford’s non-virtual student body is only about 15,000.

While most free online classes consist of not much more than audiotaped or filmed lectures, Stanford (and others) are starting to take things to the next level. The AI class, for example, will feature interactive quizzes and virtual office hours; students will be able to see their class rank, and will receive a “statement of accomplishment” upon completing the course. The UMBC podcast was constructed specifically with an online audience in mind — they make complex ideas accessible to an online audience.

Check out podcasts by the UMBC grad students here. You just might learn something!
“‘Welcome to Baltimore, Hon!’ Exploring Hon as a Linguistic and Identity Marker in Baltimore,” which examines the changing nature of the word “hon” in Baltimore culture.

“‘Baldamor, Curry, and Dug’: Language Variation, Culture, and Identity among African American Baltimoreans,” which unpacks some of the unique pronunciations heard in African American communities.

“Multilingualism and Ethnicity in Baltimore, Maryland,” which takes listeners into Baltimore’s multilingual communities to learn about language contact and language choice.