“Baldamor, Curry, and Dug': Language Variation, Culture, and Identity among African American Baltimoreans”
by Inte’a DeShields
Click on this audio player to listen to my podcast “‘Baldamor, Curry, and Dug': Language Variation, Culture, and Identity among African American Baltimoreans” (40 minutes, 8 seconds; copyright 2011).
As a native Baltimorean, I have a longstanding interest in the language and culture of Baltimore city. There are many accents within the urban landscape of Baltimore, with Appalachian, African American, Chesapeake, and Eastern Shore influences, among others. In this podcast, I investigate accents among African Americans in Baltimore. What are some salient linguistic characteristics of the speech of these native Baltimoreans, and how do they compare to those of Baltimore transplants?
In this podcast, I explore three main linguistic features in three parts: (1) The pronunciation of the name Baltimore as “Baldamor,” (2) The pronunciation of the vowel sound “urr” in which words like carry are pronounced as curry, and (3) The pronunciation of dog as “dug.” I interview a variety of Baltimore natives, including several members of a family that has lived in the city for four generations, as well as Baltimore transplants, some of whom have begun to adopt the local pronunciations they have heard here. I also interview linguists Dr. Walt Wolfram, Dr. Renee Blake, and doctoral student Cara Shousterman about these topics, and there is even some evidence to be gleaned from the tradition of Baltimore club music.
The voices featured in this podcast provide first-hand accounts of how language is a central part of culture and identity, in Baltimore and beyond. These speakers explain how language variations are natural, comfortable, and meaningful, although they can sometimes be a source of tension when they aren’t valued by others, as some individuals reveal. But above all, we’ll learn that language adds flavor to our cities and neighborhoods and to our own identities.
I hope you enjoy this podcast and our journey together through one of the many linguistic landscapes of Baltimore.
You can also listen on YouTube to the two songs that were featured in my podcast:
Nina Simone’s cover of Randy Newman’s song, “Baltimore”
Miss Tony’s song, “How You Wanna Carry It”