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The Baltimore accent, also known as Baltimorese (sometimes pseudophonetically written Baldimorese, Bawlmerese, or Ballimerese), is an accent of Mid-Atlantic American English that originated among the whiteblue-collar residents of South and Southeast Baltimore, Maryland. It is identical in many ways to the Philadelphia accent. The most notable characteristics of Baltimore English are the fronted "oh" sound (occasionally written out as "eh-ew" or "ao") and the usage of the endearment "hon".
Due to Maryland's small size and its proximity to a variety of strong cultures, the farther one gets from Baltimore, the more the local 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.
The Bawlmerese or Ballimerese dialect that originated among the Whiteblue-collar residents of South and Southeast Baltimore is not the only accent found in Baltimore. There is also an accent found among African American Baltimoreans. Notable characteristics include vowel centralization before /r/ (words such as "carry" are often pronounced like "curry") and the centralization of /ɑ/ to schwa, particularly in the word "dog" (often pronounced as "dug").
/aɪ/ becomes [ɑ] before /r/; fire is pronounced as [fɑɻ]
As in Philadelphia, the word "water" is often pronounced as "wooder" [ˈwʊɾəɻ] or, more uniquely, [ˈwɔɻɾəɻ].
No "cot–caught" merger: The words "cot" /ɑ/ and "caught" /ɔ/ do not rhyme. Other dissimilar word pairings are "don" and "dawn," "stock" and "stalk," "tock" and "talk." The word "on" rhymes with "dawn," but not "don."
As in most Mid-Atlantic cities, the short a is pronounced with a phonemic split: for example, the word "sad" /æ/ does not rhyme with the word "mad" /eə/. Pronunciation is dependent upon a complex system of rules that differ from city to city. For more details on the Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore systems see phonemic /æ/ tensing in the Mid-Atlantic region or click "show" below.
The Baltimore/Philadelphia short-a split compared to the New York City short-a split and General American /æ/ tensing
arable, arid, barrel, barren, carry, carrot, charity, clarity, Gary, Harry, Larry, marionette, maritime, marry, marriage, paragon, parent, parish, parody, parrot, etc.; this feature is determined by the presence or absence of the Mary-marry-merry merger
Alexander, answer, ant, band, can (the metal object), can't, clam, dance, family, ham, hamburger, hand, handy, man, manly, pants, plan, planning, ranch, sand, slant, tan, understand, etc.; in Philadelphia, began, ran, and swam alone remain lax
amity, animal, can (the verb), Canada, ceramic, gamut, hammer, janitor, manager, manner, Montana, panel, planet, profanity, salmon, Spanish, etc.
/b/, /d/, /dʒ/, /g/, /ʃ/, /v/, /z/, /ʒ/
add, agriculture, ash, badge, bag, bash, cab, cash, clad, crag, dad, drab, fad, flag, glad, grab, mad, magnet, plaid, rag, sad, sag, smash, tab, tadpole, tag, etc.; in NYC, this environment has a lot of variance and many exceptions to the rule; in Philadelphia, bad, mad, and glad alone become tense
The NYC, Philadelphia, and Baltimore dialects' rule of tensing /æ/ in certain closed-syllable environments also applies to words inflectionally derived from those closed-syllable /æ/ environments that now have an open-syllable /æ/. For example, in addition to pass being tense (according to the general rule), so are its open-syllable derivatives passing and passer-by, but not passive.
Epenthetic/r/; notably, "wash" is pronounced as [wɑɻʃ], popularly written as "warsh," and Washington is pronounced as "Warshington."
The films of John Waters, many of which have been filmed in and around Baltimore, often attempt to capture the Baltimore accent, particularly the early films. For example, John Waters uses his own Baltimore accent in the commentary during his film Pink Flamingos.John Travolta's character in the 2007 version of John Waters's Hairspray spoke with a thick East Baltimore accent which may sound exaggerated to non-Baltimoreans. Likewise, several of the films of Barry Levinson are set in and around Baltimore during the 1940s-1960s, and employ the Baltimore accent. Actor Danny DeVito, though not a native of the area, speaks with a thick East Baltimore accent in Levinson's film Tin Men. In that same film, actor, Michael Tucker who was born and raised in Baltimore, speaks with a West Baltimore accent.
Television drama series Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire were both set in Baltimore. In an early episode of the former ("Three Men and Adena"), a suspect, Risley Tucker, describes how he can tell whereabouts in or around the city a person comes from simply by whether they pronounce the city's name as "Balti-maw", "Balti-moh", or "Bawl-mer".
In Season 4, Episode 7 of The Tracey Ullman Show, Baltimore actor, Michael Tucker, portrayed father to Ullman's JoJo. The skit was set in a Baltimore row house. Tucker advised Ullman to "take a Liverpool accent and Americanize it."
A skit parodying the accent is found in an episode of 30 Rock with character Avery Jessup.
Singer-songwriter Mary Prankster uses several examples of Baltimore slang in her song, "Blue Skies Over Dundalk," from the album of the same name, including, "There'll be O's fans going down the ocean, hon."