How to Sound Like a Local in Baltimore

One surefire way to seamlessly fit in with the locals is to speak their language. This includes understanding the local lingo and expressions, and can even go so far as mastering the regional accent.

If you’re moving to Baltimore, you’re probably wondering how it’s residents talk. Master these pronunciations, colloquialisms, and turns of phrase, and you’ll sound like a Baltimorean in no time.

Bawlmer/Baldamore

There isn’t a singular accent in Baltimore, which means there are a number of ways Baltimoreans pronounce the name of their hometown. Locals do, however, tend to drop the “t” sound from our city’s name. Saying “Ball-tee-more” instantly brands you as an outsider.

Baltimorese

Baltimorese is the name given to the dialect that originated among the white blue-collar residents of South and Southeast Baltimore. This accent permeates most representations of Baltimore in popular culture; you can watch John Waters’ “Hairspray” as a primer. Water becomes “wooder” and ocean sounds more like “oa-shin.” There’s even a Baltimorese dictionary online.

Hi, Hon

What is a Hon in Baltimore?

In certain areas of the city this term of endearment — short for “honey” — is said so often it’s akin to the period at the end of a sentence. It’s usage is such a part of the culture in the Hampden neighborhood that there’s an annual festival in its honor called HonFest. Consider this the catchphrase of those that speak Baltimorese.

The Gender-Neutral “Yo”

The word “yo” is used as both an interjection and a nongendered pronoun, especially in African American communities in Baltimore. For example, you might use “yo” to describe someone if their gender isn’t obvious. This usage has been intriguing in academia, and some believe that it may indicate a gender-neutral pronoun could make it into mainstream language in the future. Similarly, “woe” is used to describe a good friend.

Summer Snowballs

When you hear someone talking about snowballs during the summertime, they aren’t referring to a ball of packed snow. In Baltimore, a snowball (sometimes spelled snoball or sno-ball) is a frozen treat made up of ice that’s covered in a sugary flavor of your choice. If you really want to blend in, order egg custard flavor with a dollop of marshmallow cream on top — everyone should at least try it!

Chicken Box

The chicken box is Baltimore’s fast-food staple: a carryout box filled with fried chicken, a roll, and fries, which are typically in the wedge-shaped “western” style. Order it with a “half-and-half,” a mixture of lemonade and iced tea (also known as an Arnold Palmer in other parts of the country).

Lake Trout

Another everyday favorite is lake trout, breaded fish that’s been fried and is served on a sandwich. Despite its name, “lake trout” is typically made from Atlantic whiting. In other words, its name is completely inaccurate: it’s neither from a lake or made from trout.

Natty Boh

Baltimore’s go-to beer, National Bohemian, is often called “Natty Boh.” You can shorten the nickname even further to just “Boh” if you feel like only uttering one syllable. Order a Boh at the bar and you’ll fit right in.

How bout dem O’s?

If you hear anyone mention the O’s — and believe me, you will hear this a lot — they referring to our Major League Baseball team. Sometimes the team is also called the “Birds,” and Baltimore is referred to as “Birdland” because of both the Ravens and the Orioles.

City vs. County

Baltimore City and Baltimore County are two entirely different entities of a similar name, which sometimes confuses newcomers. Baltimore City is one of the few “independent cities” in the United States, which means it does not sit within the territory of any county. As for other nearby counties, they are often shortened: HoCo refers to Howard County and MoCo refers to Montgomery County.

The Block

Strip clubs, sex shops, and other adult entertainment merchants line the 400 block of East Baltimore Street, known throughout the city as The Block.

Geekin’

If you’re geekin’, you’re in a silly or goofy mood.

Jimmy and Sally

No, these aren’t necessarily popular names in Baltimore, at least not among people. they’re nicknames for male and female crabs. Examine a crab’s abdomen and you can tell its sex; a Jimmy has a Washington Monument-like shape and a Sally has a Capitol Dome-like shape.



Libby Zay