Ernest Smith's language of love comes with subtitles. He's written a sweet comic ode to the local tribal jargon called "Hey Hon! How to Talk Like a Real Bawlamoron," an inspiration which came to him the day dem O's left Moryul Stadyum and a local teebee reporter asked a fan how she felt.
"Oltnao hon, ah'b got mixed fillins, very mixed fillins," she replied.
To the uninitiated, this translates as:
"I don't know, hon, I've got mixed feelings, very mixed feelings."
Smith did his own simultaneous translation that day, having been versed from birth in the local syntactic idiosyncrasies. He grew up in Waverly. Grandfather worked at Sparrows Point. Dad was a machinist and a shipfitter. Nobody had to explain the woman's pronunciation, or her conflicted feelings.
It helped inspire him to write the most definitive collection of Bawlmerese since John Goodspeed was penning his "Mr. Peep's Diary" column for The Evening Sun more than 30 years ago.
It's not only a laugh-out-loud dictionary of translations that read like conversations overheard at the Patterson Bowling Lanes ("Ahreddy:" as in, "Dat sem pin shudda falled over ahreddy") but also a historic explanation of the roots of the local patois and translations of various patriotic and religious songs into their original Bawlmerese.
The old Baltimore Colt fight song, for example, which could fall under both patriotic and religious:
"Less gao yew Bawlamer Coats/
En put dat baw acrost dat lon/
Sao, dribe owen yew Bawlamer Coats/
Gao in en strake lake latenin boats/
Fate! Fate! Fate!"
Smith, 42, works at Shepherd Pratt as a clinical risk management coordinator, a title which sounds a little fancy for a Bawlamer guy.
"Right," he admits. "Just say I stand between the egos of the lawyers and the doctors."
He also stands as a man piecing together the vestiges of a jargon that's gradually fading away, a fate he attributes not only to the effects of television, but suburbia, too.
"Bawlmerese," he acknowledges, "is not universally Baltimorean. It's blue collar, pretty much Caucasian, with various ethnic qualities. It's Highlandtown, it's parts of South Baltimore, Pigtown, Overlea, Rosedale, Hampden, most of the people who worked at the Point, the markets, the docks."
In the dying days of the 20th century, with its homogenization of all things American, Bawlmerese (or, as it is formally known, Upper Chesapeake Adenoidal) is a reminder of the lighthearted uniqueness of language. But it's changing.
"Television," Smith says, "waters down language. Also, people are moving out of the enclaves where they grew up. Remember 'The Tracey Ullman Show?' One night, she had that Baltimore actor on with her, the guy from 'L.A. Law,' Michael Tucker.
"They did a bit on a daughter moving out, and it was all in Bawlmerese. Marble stoops and everything. She moves out, but she moves next door. And that's the way it used to be. You'd move down the block. Now, they move to the suburbs. When you have fewer people around you to reinforce the language, I guess you've moved into Middle America."
At work, he says, newly arrived doctors sometimes have difficulty understanding their local patients. Smith's been asked to interpret. If he's smart, he'll hand out copies of his manuscript.
In the meantime, here are a few guides, courtesy of Smith's Bawlmerese-English Dictionary:
Annis: Honest. "Annis, awfser, ah oney had one beer."
Arn: Iron. "Hey, hon, when er yew gunna arn ma shirt?"
Flare Mort: Flower Mart. Where you can purchase Black Odd Suzees.
Odd: I'd. "Odd lake free dozen crabs en a Laddao, Hon."
Hollyday: See Crissmiss, Fansgibben.
Hosbiddle: As in Jawn Hokkins, Bon Secure, Union Moryul, Souff Bawlmer, Sane Agess, Norf Charles.
Accordeen: Accordion. "Ma bruvver lake tew dod when he got his firs accordeen, but nal he's playing Lady ub Spain at ma weddin'."
Memo to any smart book people out there: Smith's looking for a publisher. Somebody should grab it up. It's charming, it's funny, and it's also a loving glimpse at the way an awful lot of people talked and some folks still do.