'Balmer' Columnist Goodspeed Loved Local Lingo John Goodspeed was a Baltimore Sun columnist (writing as Mr. Peeps) and author of A Fairly Complete Lexicon of Baltimorese. His death at 86 robs the city of a favorite son... even if he came from Texas.
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'Balmer' Columnist Goodspeed Loved Local Lingo

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'Balmer' Columnist Goodspeed Loved Local Lingo

'Balmer' Columnist Goodspeed Loved Local Lingo

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

People from Baltimore eat ershters from the Chesapeake, wash their hands in the zink and drive coors. The man who documented this distinctive local language died this week. John Goodspeed was 86 and was the author of a fairly complete lexicon of Baltimorese, as well as a columnist for the Baltimore - excuse me - Balmer Sun.

Former Maryland State Senator Julian Jack Lapides used to live across the street from Mr. Goodspeed. Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. JULIAN JACK LAPIDES (Former State Senator, Maryland): It's my pleasure.

SIMON: And tell us a bit about Baltimorese.

Mr. LAPIDES: Well, John Goodspeed, who was a native Texan, really captured the - sort of the blue collar Baltimorean. And that was one of the great charms of his wonderful column in the evening Sun, Mr. Peep's diary. And it was a must-read. It was the one column you went to before you read the headline. And he walked the neighborhoods of Baltimore and he just captured the flavor of not the grand districts of Mount Vernon or Gilford or Bolton Hill, but let's say of East Baltimore or West Baltimore or Locust Point and just captured this wonderful language that native, especially blue-collar Baltimoreans used and still use today.

Like down has two syllables. Instead of downtown, it's dow-own, D-A-Y-O, dow-wown-town, with an extra syllable. And Arsh for the Irish. And Haard for Howard. They're just wonderful colloquialisms.

SIMON: Did people come to Mr. Goodspeed as kind of the court of last resort? That can happen to city columnists, you know. Government hasn't been able to help me, lawyers haven't been able to help me. But if you did a column, Mr. Goodspeed, it might help.

Mr. LAPIDES: I don't think it was so much a do-good column as a column of joy. I think John was able to capture the tougher areas but with great élan. I mean just great respect and not a putdown. So I don't think people came to him with their problems. I think they sort of came to him with their joys and shared some of these marvelous stories that could only happen in Baltimore.

I think he was extremely sort of a laconic, sort of a Texas - interesting look and a handsome man. And I think the ladies absolutely loved him. And I think it was reciprocated.

SIMON: Mr. Goodspeed wrote this column that he called Mr. Peep's Diary for many years. Do you recall a couple of columns in particular that moved you?

Mr. LAPIDES: I don't remember a specific column of his. I should've researched that. But I just remember the sheer delight. It was like, you know, opening the New Yorker, or Talk of the Town. It really was something that I think perhaps he patterned his writing after. And I don't know if this is true or not, but the rumor always was that John Goodspeed was invited to go to New York and write for the New Yorker but always declined and wanted to stay in his beloved Balmer.

SIMON: Well, Senator...

Mr. LAPIDES: Yes?

SIMON: Nice talking to you, sir.

Mr. LAPIDES: My pleasure and keep up the good fight.

SIMON: Former Maryland State Senator Jack Lapides talking about his longtime friend and neighbor John Goodspeed, the Baltimore columnist who died this week at the age of 86.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: The Ray Brand(ph) Combo. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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