Volmares: Roots of the Central Maryland Urban Dialect

There are many lost languages in North America, including Apalachee, Mohawk Dutch, Tilamook, and Yurok. But some have not become completely extinct. A few hundred years ago in this very region, the original settlers of Baltimore practiced a very rich dialect that is still spoken in many areas in and around the city. It was in 1608 that Captain John Smith explored the upper Chesapeake Bay, specifically the area surrounding the Patapsco River, which means “backwater” in the Algonquian dialect.

The original settlers of that area blended their English with sounds from the local Algonquians, and that evolved into the dialect originally called, “Vol-ma-res” which in Algonquian, translates loosely into “Majestic Waters.” The settlers mimicked their language, right down to the pronunciation of Valmareese, and it is this Valmareese accent that has given the region around Baltimore City its rich lexicon and vibrant treat for the ear.

The diacritical marks have all but disappeared from the written language. Most notable among them is the ewmlaut (not to be confused with the German “umlaut”). The ewmlaut (pronounced “EWWM-lowt”), uses two backward slashes, typically over the vowels “O” or “U” (e.g. ȍ), also seen as a conjoined O and E or U and E, such as “Œ.” The “auhawn” diacritical mark is expressed as a small circle beneath the A (e.g. “ḁ”) and is typically pronounced as “ehhAY.”

An exception to most of these rules seems to be a diversion of the original Algonquian. When a U with an ewmlaut (an accented long U) follows certain consonants, everything after the U is slurred. The most widely known example is the English word, “ambulance.” In its original Algonquian, ambulance (any form of conveyance of the infirmed), would have been pronounced as AM-byu-lantz. As the language evolved into Valmareese, the pronunciation changed to Am-b’-lamps, and is still used widely throughout the urban centers of Baltimore.

All of these pieces have helped form the modern day dialect which evolved from the original Valmareese, into what is now called “Bawlmorese.” You may have heard traces of this dialect near the neighborhoods of Baltimore. For clarity, I’ll avoid all the diacritical marks in the following examples, but will attempt to phonetically express the sentences, although it is impossible to express Bawlmorese accurately in written form.

“Yewse awl better come ouwn in here an’ giyt yewur dinner, ouhr it’s gohna git cold.”

“Hey, did’a Owh-ri-oles win dere heome owhpener, th’other day?”

“When yewse hiear a amb’lamps*, yewse better pewhl owhver to da sahd of da rowhd.”

(* Also pronounced “am-blantz”)

“Hey Jimmie, bring me a glayss o’ wuhrter ouwt o’ tha zink.”

It is still very common to hear the Bawlmorese dialect in use even today. To hear it in its native glory, it’s best to visit the Hampden, Bel Air (also pronounced “B’lair), Canton, Fells Point, Locust Point, or Highlandtown (also pronounced “Hollin-town”) regions of the city, particularly diners, grocery stores, beauty shops, and lottery ticket sales terminals.

By now, you should realize that this whole thing is complete BS. But if you’ve made it this far down the page, “Awww. Gawd love ya, hon.”

Here’s a link to help you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa3Tl3t88Mc




Five liters of unbridled anger roars in the lane beside me. The red glow of the traffic light reflects off the glistening black paint of the Mustang’s hood. The driver grins behind the cloak of dark-tinted windows, no doubt assessing the worthiness of my machine. I am undaunted.2015-gt-mustang-doing-a-burn-out

I pull my front wheels to the stop line, cautious of the changing light, watching it, for I know my vengeance is coming. The Mustang revs, loudly boasting its readiness. I sneer, tightening my grip on the leather-clad wheel. It’s on.

My right thumb finds the “ECO” button on the steering wheel, disabling it. I won’t be saving fuel this time, friends. My left foot depresses the brake pedal, holding back the 190 horsepower that paces in its stall, trying to escape, waiting to throw its rider. My right foot sends more revs to the orange tachometer needle. My eyes study the traffic light. My ears ignore the wail of the stallion to my right.

The Mustang eases to the thick white line, our bumpers neatly aligned. We do not make eye contact. Our cars taunt each other. The amber light on the cross street glows, and I know I’m seconds away from victory. Three. Two. One. Green.

I release my left foot and jam my right to the floor. The Traction Control warning lights up on my dash as the tiny front wheels lose traction in the remnants of loose salt, spread so profusely a week earlier in anticipation of a quarter inch of snow.  Damn it!

The chrome horse on the Mustang’s fender rears up and kicks its hooves as steam blasts from its nostrils. The Mustang leaves two trails of black evidence in the street, visible only until the tire smoke blocks out my view of his taillights as he blisters into the future, leaving my Kia Optima coughing and embarrassed. The engine wheezes like a turbocharged leaf blower. By the time the Mustang has reached the next county, I’m traveling at a speed of almost 25 miles per hour.

Until we meet again, Mustang. I will turn off my traction control, and we’ll see who’s boss around here. Oh yes, we’ll see.

The Baltimore Civic Center

Image result for baltimore civic center
I was at Monster Jam yesterday at a place they now call the Royal Farms Arena. Call it whatever you want, but it will always be the Civic Center to me. Standing there amidst all the trucks, I started recalling all the times I’ve been to the Civic Center, and it has been the most random of events.
Maybe the first thing I remember was a car show, which included the Batmobile, fresh from the TV series. Burt Ward was signing autographs. I also remember the Bonnie and Clyde movie car was there.
Hard to say what was next, but it was either the Royal Highland Guards (Scottish Military Tattoo with bagpipes… Dad loved them), or it might have been a Baltimore Clippers Image result for baltimore clippershockey game. I was still very young for both of these, but I do remember standing for the Clippers “fight” song. I still remember the general tune. I think I even had a Clippers seat cushion.
In 1976, it was Elvis in one of his very last performances. The Jordanaires carried most of the show, as the King was rather sick. I can’t remember if the big stamp controversy was before or after he died, but there was the “thin Elvis” stamp and the “fat Elvis” stamp. In concert, we saw fat Elvis. At the time, we thought it was cool, but my brother and I weren’t super Elvis fans. We knew of him, of course. Everybody did. Nowadays, it’s pretty cool that we got to see Elvis in concert.
Next was probably the Baltimore Skipjacks hockey team. They rolled in after the Clippers, and I don’t think they held the same place in Dad’s heart.
There was the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus (with elephants, of course). We also saw the Shrine Circus there a couple of times. For a while, the Shrine Circus was held at the Fifth Regiment Armory, but I suppose it outgrew the place and moved to the Civic Center.
We saw a Rock and Roll Revival there, with such people and groups as Bill Haley and the Comets (Rock Around the Clock), Little Richard, and tons of others I can’t remember.
Next was the Tractor Pull, where a bunch of guys with big trucks compete to see who can pull a 22-ton weight the farthest. In those days, the hero truck was the Orange Blossom Special, which was loud and really cool. I seem to remember a loud train whistle blaring just before he hit the accelerator and the truck literally jumped off the ground. Awesome! Oh, and the guest star was this relatively new monster truck called Bigfoot or something like that.
Image result for orange blossom special pulling truck
Later on, Mary and I saw Alan Jackson in concert there. Of note, I’m pretty sure my brother saw Led Zeppelin at the Civic Center.
There was the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer league, and I had a surprisingly good time. “Goran Hunyak!” I think he was the goalie at the time. I don’t know. The crowd yelled his name, so I yelled too. We went to the game because of a British guy we worked with who wanted to see indoor soccer. (Crazy Americans…)
My daughter graduated from UMBC at the Civic Center.
And that brings us back to Monster Jam, 2018. The place is still going, and it still looks exactly as I remember it from my first trip there in probably 1968 or 69. The seats are definitely the same ones that were installed in 62, and the bathrooms look about as you would have expected from back in the sixties.
A word of caution though, if you go back now, hot dog prices have increased by 1,000 percent, give or take.

I Siriusly Miss My Kia

I’ll explain. My wife is driving my Kia, and I’m driving my truck this week. This probably sounds crazy, right? I love my truck! My truck is awesome. Why do I miss my little, itty-bitty Kia? It’s the radio.

Damn you, Sirius! (See, it wasn’t a typo after all) You’re like nicotine for my ears. You’re like the extra chunky chocolate chip cookies that make me eat more than one. You’re that salty deliciousness in Utz potato chips that makes me want to eat the whole bag. And the saddest part is… you’re not even all that great anyway.

I am on glorious Rt. 32 for about two hours each day, and what else is there to do besides yell at the other cars, than to sing along with the radio? Sirius has several channels that play music I like, and very few interruptions. For about five bucks a month, I get to hear a wide variety of music, clicking past songs I don’t like with the little magic button on my steering wheel. That song again? Click. Hasn’t Blake Shelton named those damned dogs yet? Click. “Oh, oh, oh, oh, sweet child…” Click.

I equate Sirius to Safeway though. If I find something I really like at Safeway, like Bertolli’s Stuffed Shells, or Finlandia Swiss Cheese, or Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Burritos, Safeway is legally obliged to stop selling it. I have data to prove this. Well, I don’t, but I don’t care about that. Now if I find a new product that I really like, I just tell Richard the store manager that I hate it and can’t understand why they’d carry such an awful product. It buys me time. Oh yes, it buys me time.

Sirius is the same way. Let’s take the most awesome song out at the moment, “Shoot Me Straight,” by the Brothers Osbourne. I’ve now heard it three times on Sirius. Lee Brice’s “Boy,” 154 times. Keith Urban’s “Female,” 732 times (That’s just this week though). Blake could have named the Dalmatians twenty times over by now. Finally, “The Rest of Our Life,” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, which is a beautiful, heartfelt love song, that I’ve heard… Click. Slowest, most boring song ever, and I grew up when the Carpenters were on the radio. AM radio for crying out loud!

But now, I’m in my truck. A fine specimen of a 2004 Dodge Ram (Yeah, it’s got a Hemi in it), with 20-inch wheels, an imitation hood scoop, and an AM/FM radio which has commercials, announcers, interviews, and interruptions. I can’t stand it anymore. It used to be all I had. Hell, AM radio was once all I had. WCAO played everything I needed at 600 kHz on the AM dial on my Panasonic radio. It was just fine.

Now that I’ve had a sip of that uninterrupted music, that Hair Nation hit, that toke of The Highway or Prime Country, or that Classic Rewind of ambrosia, I can’t stand hearing commercials. There are literally millions of channels on Sirius. (That’s an exageration) I have even stopped on the French pop channel up in the Canadian band when I get bored with the other 173 channels. You do what you gotta do, right? I don’t necessarily want my car back. I want my radio back. Sirius, you win. You’ve dangled your little shark fin antenna in front of me and I took the bait. I am weak.

If you see me along Rt. 32 and I’m pounding away on my steering wheel drums, or if I’m belting out a tune behind those closed windows, you can be sure of a couple of things. First, you should know that I know the words to very few songs, so I’m totally making stuff up. You should know that I’m probably headed toward work, because A.) That’s when I’m more likely to be doing those things, because B.) if I’m going home, it’s dark and you can’t see me, and I’m probably not in the mood anyway. The last thing is, you can be sure I’m not listening to the news channels which are full of Zyppah (Anti-Snoring Thing) and Erectile Dysfunction (You know what that is) commercials.

If you see me in my truck, however, you should know that I can also do a burnout if I have to (for emergency maneuvers only, of course) because the truck does NOT have traction control. Maybe I’ll just keep that truck after all.

The Blanket Chest: Craftsmanship is simply recovering from your mishaps. Repeatedly.

Sometimes, things work our really well, and my projects fly by. Other times, I make a blanket chest. I started this thing two years ago by gluing up the big pieces… the top (lid) and the bottom. Planed, jointed, glued, and sanded flat. Then they warped. I cut them apart and re-glued them two additional times. When they warped again, I put them into a pile in the basement until last month.
Then this guy I work with (Let’s call him Jeff) practically insisted I go to the Maryland Woodworkers Show, and I finally did. It was awesome! I watched a demo and got sprayed with man glitter (sawdust), and then I was hooked again. I decided to give the blanket chest another shot. Started off great. I re-sanded the big pieces nice and flat and moved on to another piece, which I promptly messed up. I wanted to use biscuits in the mitered joints of the base. I had the blade set too deep, and it poked through the front. I made another one. I moved on.
The sides will be raised panel construction. I set up my ShopSmith in “Shaper” mode (like a drill press), cut a practice piece like you should, and it came out perfect. Then, on the very first cut on the very first of eight raised panels, the motor (which is heavy, and on the fastest speed setting) vibrated itself a bit loose, and the motor dropped, gouging the bit into the panel. Oh well, these things happen. 20180203_112017.jpg
On about panel number 5, the bit dragged against the grain and tore a chunk out of the edge (where the guide bushing needs to ride). I patched this with a sliver of walnut, some glue, and high-performance wood filler, just to give a smooth edge for the bit to ride on. That worked. Phew!
“Panel-raising bits” are large, and they remove a lot of material, so I cut a little bit on the first pass, then lowered the bit to cut a little more… then on panel 7 or 8, I cut the panel with the wrong side up and ruined it. (This is a mistake, by the way, and not a mishap). I cut apart all of the problem pieces, glued new pieces on, cut them to size, re-sanded them flat, and cut them again. When one of those panels was going through, a big chunk got ripped off the edge.
That’s when I told my wife that she is not meant to have that blanket chest that I promised her when we got married 34 years ago. But, I did finally make progress (See wood shavings), and I finally did get to the point where I’ve now glued up three sides to go onto the finished base. I’m getting there. If true craftsmanship is the art of recovering from your mishaps, then over the past couple of weeks, I have given myself ample opportunities to improve my craftsmanship. Sadly, I’m not done quite yet. Stay tuned.

Breaking the Law

Okay folks, so two things happened this week. The first is that someone told me that they had read my blog. It took a few days for this to register, but I suspected it might be true.  I wonder when I last updated that blog. Let’s just say it’s been a while. The second thing is, that I realized that I tend to write about driving a lot, probably because I spend many hours each week driving. The third thing is, that when I’m driving, I feel like it’s my civic duty to point out examples of sub-par driving, and that is to say, driving that is not up to my very high standards. I’m an expert you know. I’m also an expert at cooking, ballroom dancing, structural engineering, American Ninja Warrioring, and singing. I kimagesnow, three things. Let it go.

But this breaking the law thing . . . When did our state decide that drivers were incapable of turning left? It happens slowly you know. You’re not supposed to notice it, until one day . . . that’s right . . . your steering wheel only turns right. On my drive home, which is always where these revelations hit me, I have noticed a surprising number of rebellious drivers who are standing up for their rights! I mean lefts. New shopping centers and housing developments have popped up along Rt. 32, my favorite road in the whole world, and the only way to legally turn into these developments is to be traveling in the other direction so you can turn right. It’s the rebellious ones who say, “Screw THAT!” and turn left anyway, heading up the wrong lane to get to their damn house. Hell. Yes.

You can see it coming too. The car in front of you slows down approaching the Sporkbill Estates entrance. He can’t signal his turn. That would be crazy, right? But he sees the approaching traffic. He quickly scans for any traffic coming from the estates. No police cars in sight. And you see it coming. There’s a gap ten car lengths long in front of him, and in the opposing traffic, the lane opens up right after the blue Camry. He goes for it. He floors it, slipping across the road, in through the out lane, and on to freedom.

But if you don’t like seeing these lawbreakers, go on and take a back road. But when you do, tell me how many roundabouts you have to weave through. One more than last year, right? Uh huh. Now which way do you drive in a roundabout. Boom! To the RIGHT! Where do you think you’re driving, pal, in the United frickin’ Kingdom? Just stick to the program, buddy.

So the next time you’re contemplating taking that left turn, well . . . you’d better just think through those actions and the consequences that go with them. Or at least make sure there’s not a police car in your mirror for cryin’ out loud. The law is there for a reason—to protect people from doing stupid things. Two wrongs do NOT make a right. Three rights, however, make a left.

Drive safely, my friends.



This Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

You’ve seen these lights all over the place, usually dangling over busy intersections. But, have you ever wondered what the different colors are meant to signify? I did, so I did a little research. Many years ago, these “red” lights were actually used to signal drivers to stop, usually at intersections. This practice has long been abandoned, so I’ve studied how today’s drivers behave around these color-changing signals. I’m now convinced that it no longer has anything to do with stopping. As I’m always looking for ways to improve the driving skills of everyone else on the road, I thought I’d tcloseup-traffic-signal-showing-red.jpgry to offer some insight into this curious pendulum of light.

If you are presented with this “red light” signal, you are supposed to quickly glance to your left, decide whether there is a space at least the length of your car plus an extra foot or two, and then accelerate quickly into that space without slowing down at the signal. Awareness of the capabilities of your vehicle will be required in this situation. If you are driving a Camaro SS, Mustang GT, or BMW, you may be able to enter a much smaller space on a road with much higher speeds. Be brave and go for it! Slowing down in this situation might cause other vehicles to hit you from behind, and I don’t think you want this. Please be courteous to the drivers behind you! 

Now a word of caution for those of you on opposing streets. You are no doubt facing a green or yellow one, and your response could be slightly different. If your signal is green, this means that you should move your foot from the accelerator to cover the brake pedal. A green signal simply means that your path is about to be interrupted, possibly unexpectedly if you happen to be glancing at a phone, changing the radio station (in antique cars without steering wheel controls), or trying to get your coffee cup back into the cup holder. The green signal is a mere convenience to help you prepare for those events. It has nothing at all to do with the antiquated, “right of way” concepts as was once believed decades ago.

Those of you facing a yellow signal have a choice to make, and your choice affects everyone else on the road. Your role is about to change, so you will be expected to merge with traffic that is trying to turn right and drivers who are trying to time their entry onto the road you’re on. Be courteous! Accelerate promptly so that those drivers know they need to fall in line behind you, and they will have to time their entry to be between your car and the one behind you that is also trying to get through on the yellow. If you are accelerating, please blare your horn for at least five seconds. This signals to any driver who is trying to merge in front of you that he has limited time and that the space required for his vehicle is getting shorter. It might help to wave one arm, hand, or finger to the driver so he knows that you are aware he is merging.

By now, I hope you better understand your responsibilities when approaching these tri-colored merging lights. They really are very convenient once you’ve become accustomed to their proper use. And now for the most important question of all…

What color should the fourth color on these signals be, and what would they signal the driver to do? Hmm…