Linquists, scholars debate the roots of true Baltimorese

June 26, 1992|By Tom Keyser

Where did Baltimorese come from? There seems to be no definitive answer.

Gordon Beard, a retired Associated Press reporter and native "Balmoron," wrote two guides on the subject: "Basic Baltimorese" in 1979 and "Basic Baltimorese II" in 1990. He wrote:

"Linguists and scholars have argued for years over its derivation and have suggested various blends of Virginia Southern, Pennsylvania Dutch, Brooklynese, Allegheny Mountain English, Irish and British Cockney."

John Goodspeed, author for 16 years of "Mr. Peep's Diary," a local feature in The Evening Sun that often dealt with language, says Baltimorese is an odd mixture of Cockney, Pennsylvania Dutch and "a little bit of Southern thrown in there, too."

He says that every now and then a scholar of some sort would ask him about the dialect.

"The first thing they'd say when they interviewed me was that I'm all wrong about it," he says. "But I've never seen any other explanation."

The best one may be from Lou Panos, a former Evening Sun columnist, whom Mr. Beard quotes in his guides:

"It requires a delicate blend of nasal and guttural tones which can be evoked only by one whose sinuses and pharynx have been conditioned since birth by breathing air laden with the brackish spray of Chesapeake Bay backwaters and by ingesting huge quantities of highly seasoned back fin lumps of steamed crab meat and a sufficiently soothing volume of beer right from the bottle or can."

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