From the December, 2003 issue of Touchstone
Dead Kids on the Block by Robert Hart

Dead Kids on the Block

Robert Hart on the Wages of Vice

If you have never heard of Balmer Merlin, you have never been a resident of Baltimore, Maryland. It is not that the natives are in too much of a hurry to pronounce the t—that would be natural enough to New Yorkers—or to treat an or with the appropriate sound. What makes them say Balmer is simply that they are laid back: They see no reason to put consonant strain upon the tongue.

This trait is evident in that the purpose of a marble stoop is less for climbing to a front door than for settin’. Settin’ is very much like sitting, but not if one sits up straight, or arches forward to muse like the Thinker. For settin’ means sort-of-sitting, and doing so wholly without attitude. Baltimore has many other charms and grand local traditio . . .


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more from the online archives

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