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Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Focus on Balmer

Baltimore Inner Harbor
I've always been interested in languages. And not just languages, but dialects as well.

And lucky me, for one of the nation's most outstanding dialects is spoken right here in the Queen City of the Patapsco Drainage Area, Baltimore.

Baltimoreans, who call their fair city BAL-mer, really do have a unique accent. As a young guy, before I moved to New York City, I felt I was too good for Balmerese. It used to grate on my nerves. But after more than 20 years back in the vicinity of Balmer, I've grown to love the dialect.

Geographical terms in Balmerese are very important. For example, I grew up in Balmer Cowndy (Baltimore County,) but now live in Annrundul (Anne Arundel County) in a place called Arnold, which is right by 'Naplis (Annapolis,) although I don't live near the wuder (water.) I do live near the Bay Bridge, though, so it's easy for me to go to the Eastrin (Eastern) Shore.

Moving along to other important topics, everyday speech in Balmer comes out something like this:

When I went off the college in 1967 (to Hoboken, no less!) I worked hard to lose my Balmer accent, thinking it was lower-class and beneath me. But now as I approach senior citizenship, I realize that was foolish - Balmer people are good-hearted, hard-working, and likable.

How likable? For true Balmer natives, Eastrin Balmer expeshully, "Hon" is a nearly universal way of addressing people. A waitress in Hollantaawn (Highlandtown, an Eastrin Balmer neighborhood) will come to your table and ask, "What can I get for ya, Hon?" It's friendly and charming, really.

If you drive into Baltimore from the South by way of US 295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, there is a large sign that welcomes motorists to the city. For years now, some beero in the Balmer gummit has been playing cat to an annonymous mouse (or more likey, mice) over this sign. Despite the city's best efforts, they just can't keep nocturnal Balmerese Partisans from modifying the sign from "Welcome to Baltimore" to "Welcome to Baltimore HON!".

Hey, just look at what a hit "Hairspray" is on Broadway - it's a story straight out of the most Balmer of Baltimore neighborhoods with the most Balmer of Baltimoreans as characters... and the nation loves it!

See ya tamar, Hon!

Just FWIW, the original signguy (he of the "Hon" sign on 295) died from cancer awhile ago - check out several dan rodricks columns in the sun for details.

His son occasionally staples a "Hon" to the welcome sign but we've been without even that for awhile. I think even the staples have all rusted away so the remenants have disappeared as well - he only lives on in our memories.

Oddly enough, he stopped doing it when it was decided it was "politically incorrect". There was talk about putting up a sign flashing all the different ways the different parts of baltimore says "Hon" but of course THAT wase either to inclusive or not inclusive enough. And of course it would cost money, so they gave up on it.
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