(O)K, I’ll confess, I’m not drinking Natty Boh (Ballimorese for National Bohemian, the original Baltimore Brew), although I did hear a great story about it from my new friend Thomas but that’s for some other time.

An actual can of Natty Boh spotted in the wild. (On top of the lockers in my Hostel)

The door of my room

In January I spent a total of less than a day here in Baltimore and almost all of that time was with someone who is not native to the area. This trip,for the American Homebrewers Association Conference, although still often in the company of those from other places, I’ve had a chance to walk around the city and talk to natives as well as listen in busy areas. I heard some vowel differences as well as specifically some vowel shifting to schwa particularly when walking through the more north and east part of the downtown area where I encountered more African American speakers. 

I spent the morning discovering what others have said about some of the common features of “Baltimorese” (Bawlmerese or Ballimerese): 

  • /oʊ/ shifts to [ɘʊ] or even [eʊ].
  • /aɪ/ becomes [ɑ] before /r/; fire is pronounced as [fɑɻ]
  • Non-rhotic
  • As in Philadelphia, the word “water” is often pronounced as “wooder” [ˈwʊɾəɻ] or, more uniquely, [ˈwɔɻɾəɻ].
  • No “cot–caught” merger
  •  The word “on” rhymes with “dawn,” but not “don”
  • As in most Mid-Atlantic cities, the short a is pronounced with a phonemic split (phonemic /æ/ tensing)
  • Schwa elimination (Annapolis =Napolis)
  • L-vocalization (l replaced by glide w as in “middle” as [ˈmɪdo]
  • /t/ is frequently elided after /n/, thus hunter is pronounced [ˈhʌnɚ]
  • African American speech here has vowel centralization before r and /ɑ/ centralization to schwa. 

For references and further reading on Ballimorese: 

Britton, Holly and, Heidi Faust. “Welcome to Baltimore, Hon: Exploring Hon as a Linguistic and Identity Marker in Baltimore”. Podcast. Retrieved 17 July 2011.


DeShields, Inte’a. “Baldamor, Curry, and Dug’: Language Variation, Culture, and Identity among African American Baltimoreans”. Podcast. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 

Click to access Ch17_2nd.rev.pdf