With the help of his family, Baltimore County native Phillip Schwarzmann demonstrates Bawlmerese for friends in San Francisco.
How do you say “Down the ocean?”
All the time he was growing up in Baltimore County, Phillip Schwarzmann never knew he spoke funny.
“People say I speak with an accent, but I say I’m just speaking perfectly normal,” he says.
Well, Bawlamerese does sound funny to people who have never heard it before, who insist that there’s no such phrase as “downy ocean” (which, of course, is how that phrase in the opening sentence above is supposed to be pronounced).
So Schwarzmann, now 38 and 17 years removed from living in Baltimore, decided to take advantage of returning home for the holidays. During a family get-together at his aunt’s home in Perry Hall, he had various family members pronounce words and phrases written on index cards — from “Tuesday” and “water” to “ambulance” and “Belair Rd.” — committed their distinctive pronunciations to video and posted it to his Facebook page.
"Baltimorese" or "Bawlmerese" is typically ascribed to a white working class — often of an earlier generation — and is relatively static, say experts and locals. But within Baltimore's African-American community is a vernacular that, though less prominent nationally, is youthful and highly dynamic, they say.
At the suggestion of a friend, he made the post public. By Thursday afternoon, more than 500,000 people had viewed it, Schwarzmann said. More than 4,200 people had liked it, and more than 11,000 had shared it.
“I wanted to show my San Francisco friends why I talk so funny,” Schwarzmann, a UMBC grad now doing public relations work for a tech company, said Thursday, still in Baltimore and enjoying English the way it was meant to be spoken. “Especially in the Bay area … they don’t really have an accent. They always make fun of me, for certain words. Everybody has seen ‘The Wire.’ Every time I say certain words at work, I get grief.”
His family certainly seems to be in the spirit, happily talking about “Blair Road” and “amblance” and “worter” and “Tuesdee.” Truly, it’s about time the rest of the world learned to speak properly.