Monday, May 26, 2014

Cry Father smells like Baltimore

've written before about how locally inherited sayings may not be as isolated as we think. That a saying about one area might get said about another area too. The example I used then was this one:

“In a matter of blocks the homes go from lower class to upper-middle. It’s never been so clear to me until now. Life in Philly is a matter of blocks. You go a few blocks west and your neighbor may be a dope dealer, you go east, toward Penn and your neighbor is a professor of math and science.” – The Science of Paul by Aaron Philip Clark

“Vic’s place was on lower Bourbon Street, near the edge of the Quarter, an old Spanish-style apartment complex from the early 1800′s. The block was quiet; the noise and crowds and vomit of upper Bourbon, a few blocks away, didn’t reach here. I’d forgotten that in New Orleans every block was its own world; block by block was how locals described their city, good and bad.” – Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran

This is reminiscent of the "city of neighborhoods" idea that gets said about some areas, like Baltimore for example. 

I was reading Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer and I came across this passage:

"When the stink of oil and animal waste being processed rolls in on a hot afternoon it's a little like being suffocated in sewage. They call it'll the big stink, and rumor has it that you can get used to it after a while. That third-generation residents have even been known to claim they can't smell it at all."

It reminded me of something I'd read in an old Baltimore book called The Amiable Baltimoreans:

"When a new arrival in town encounters this strange phenomenon for the first time he is certain to inquire of an old resident what this smell is. To this question the conventional reply is: "Smell, did you say? What smell?" In the course of time later arrivals will accost the former newcomer and put the same question. When the former newcomer finds himself replying automatically, Smell, did you say? What smell?" it's a sure sign he is well on the way to becoming a real Baltimorean."

I'm sure that Cry Father's link to Baltimore was an unintentional one but it pleased me any way.  

It does make me further wonder though about the reoccurrence of these sayings in different parts of the country and what their actual origins are. 

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