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Baltimorese (sometimes pseudophonetically written Bawlmerese or Ballimerese) is a dialect of American English in the Mid-Atlantic United States that originated among the white blue-collar residents of South and Southeast Baltimore. During World War II, migrant workers from the Carolinas working in defense plants brought the southern dialect which further contributed to Baltimorese. The most notorious characteristics of Baltimore English are the fronted "oh" sound (occasionally written out as "eh-ew") and the usage of the endearment "hon". The films of John Waters, many of which have been filmed in and around Baltimore, often attempt to portray this Baltimore accent, particularly the early films. John Travolta's character in the 2007 version of John Waters' Hairspray spoke with an exaggerated Baltimore accent.

It is spoken mostly in Baltimore City and the surrounding areas (particularly Essex, Dundalk, Middle River). It also heard in other parts of the nearby counties - Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard. While the dialect is localized in these areas, it is not limited to them and can be heard as far west as Frederick and Hagerstown, as far east as Elkton, and as far south as Calvert County. Due to Maryland's small size and its close proximity to a variety of strong cultures, the further one gets from the city, the more their speech is influenced by these other cultures. For example, the speech of Western Maryland is influenced by Appalachia, Northeast Maryland by Delaware Valley and the Eastern Shore of Maryland by the Tidewater accent. Families who migrated out of the city along the Maryland Route 140 and Maryland Route 26 corridors brought the dialect and in some cases pronunciations melded with local colloquialisms such as the word "bixicated" referring to someone who is silly or simple.



Baltimorese closely resembles blue-collar Philadelphia-area English pronunciation in many ways. These two cities are the only major ports on the Eastern Seaboard to have never developed nonrhotic speech among white speakers; they were greatly influenced in their early development by Hiberno-English, Scottish English, and West Country English. Due to the significant similarity between the speeches of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and southern New Jersey, some sociolinguists refer to them collectively as the Mid-Atlantic dialect.[1] Vowels in Baltimorese are flattened and shifted, however, which is more characteristic of Southern American English. Some vowels, as well as certain vernaculars can be traced to Appalachian influences. Also, the "l" sound is "dark", indistinctive or vocalized.

  • [f] is often substituted for [θ]
  • [ʒ] is often substituted for [z] and, sometimes, [s]
  • prerhotic monopthongizations: [eɪ] becomes [i]; so bared can rhyme with leered and *[aɪ], [ɔɪ] ,and [aʊ] become [ɔ]; choir and hire rhyme with war, aisle and boil with ball
  • [aɪ] becomes [a] before [ɹ]; fire is pronounced as [fɑɹ], sometimes rendered pseudophonetically as far
  • As is common in many US dialects /t/ is frequently elided after /n/, thus hunter is pronounced [hʌnɚ] sometimes written pseudophonetically as hunner
  • [oʊ] shifts to [eʊ]; one cheers for the Eh-ew's (O's, for the Baltimore Orioles), as it is popularly written.
  • The [ɪŋ](-ing) ending of participle forms is pronounced [iːn] as in "They're go-een to the store."
  • [ə] is often eliminated entirely from a word; (e.g. Annapolis = Naplis, cigarette = cigrette, company = compny)
  • Baltimore English tends to use a voiced "d" sound for words beginning with a [ð] sound. This is very characteristic of dialects in the Northeast. The popularly cited example of this is "dis, dem, and dose" in place of "this, them, and those".
  • Like Philadelphia, the word "water" is often pronounced as "wooder" (/wʊdər/).
  • epenthetic [ɹ]; notably, "wash" is pronounced as [wɑɹʃ], popularly written as "warsh."
  • elision is common


The following is a list of words and phrases used in the Baltimore area that are used much less or differently in other American English dialects.

  • pavement - commonly substituted for "sidewalk".
  • hon - a popular term of endearment.
  • natty boh - local slang for the Baltimore brewed beer, National Bohemian.
  • down the ocean - acceptable in place of "down to/on/at the ocean", whereas ocean most likely refers to Ocean City, Maryland.
  • O's - refers to the MLB team the Baltimore Orioles

Notable speakers

See also

External links




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