The Baltimore accent, also known as Baltimorese (sometimes pseudo-phonetically written Bawlmerese, Ballimorese, etc.), commonly refers to the accent and dialect that originated among blue-collar residents of South and Southeast Baltimore, Maryland: a sub-variety of Mid-Atlantic American English, as is nearby Philadelphia English.
At the same time, there is considerable linguistic diversity within Baltimore, which complicates the notion of a singular "Baltimore accent". According to linguists, the accent and dialect of African American Baltimoreans are different from the "hon" variety that is popularized in the media as being spoken by white blue-collar Baltimoreans. White working-class families who migrated out of Baltimore city along the Maryland Route 140 and Maryland Route 26 corridors brought local pronunciations with them, creating colloquialisms that make up the Baltimore accent.
The Baltimore accent that originated among white blue-collar residents closely resembles blue-collar Philadelphia-area English pronunciation in many ways. These two cities are the only major ports on the Eastern Seaboard never to have developed nonrhotic speech among European American 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, Delaware and southern New Jersey, sociolinguists refer to them collectively as the Mid-Atlantic regional dialect. In Baltimore accents, sounds around /r/ are often "smoothed" or elided. For example, a word like bureau is commonly pronounced // (e.g., Federal Beer-o of Investigation) and mirror is commonly pronounced "mere"; the related mare–mayor merger also exists.
|New York City||General American||Baltimore &|
|/m/, /n/||closed||tense [eə]||tense [eə]|
|open||lax [æ]||lax [æ]|
|/b/, /d/, /dʒ/, /g/,
/ʃ/, /ʒ/, and possibly
(although with variance) /z/ and /v/
|closed||tense [eə]||lax [æ]|
|/f/, /s/, /θ/||closed||tense [eə]|
|all other instances of /æ/||lax [æ]||lax [æ]|
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.
According to linguists, the "hon" dialect that is popularized in the media and that derives historically from the speech of by White blue-collar residents of South, and Southeast Baltimore is not the only accent spoken in the region. There is also a particular Baltimore accent found among Black Baltimoreans. For example, among Black speakers, Baltimore is pronounced more like "Baldamore," as compared to "Bawlmer." Other notable phonological characteristics include vowel centralization before /r/ (such that words such as "carry" and "parents" are often pronounced as "curry" or "purrents") and the mid-centralization of /ɑ/, particularly in the word "dog," often pronounced like "dug," and "frog," as "frug." The accent and dialect of African-American Baltimoreans also share features of African American English.
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. 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 are both set in Baltimore and include actors who are native White and Black Baltimoreans. In the early Homicide: Life on the Streets episode "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 portrays the father of Ullman's character JoJo. The skit is set in a Baltimore row house. Tucker advises Ullman to "take a Liverpool accent and Americanize it." The episode called "The Stoops" begins with Tracey washing her marble stoops, which are the most common small porches attached to most Baltimore town homes (called row houses in Baltimore).
Whether it was on his ESPN Radio show or SportsCenter at Night, Scott Van Pelt always ended his segments with Tim Kurkjian by mentioning names in a Baltimore accent featuring at least one fronted 'o'.
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 downy ocean, hon."
Jason La Canfora, host of the B-More Opinionated podcast with Jerry Coleman and resident of Dundalk, regularly discusses events of the National Football League for The Tony Kornheiser Show and will end the segment plugging his own podcast in a heavy Baltimore accent. The accent is so distinct that his dog, Copper, will react to it, barking constantly because he knows it is time for a walk.
Comedians Stavros Halkias and Nick Mullen of the Cum Town podcast both hail from the Baltimore area and use the accent to discuss topics and stories related to Baltimore. Halkias's recurring Dundalk Ralph character is frequently used to mock the white working class culture of the Dundalk suburb.