- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — John Goodspeed, a columnist who documented Baltimore’s quirks and customs for the Evening Sun, died Sept. 10 of pulmonary fibrosis at his Easton, Md., home. He was 86.

Mr. Goodspeed chronicled the city in his weekday column “Mr. Peep’s Diary,” which appeared from 1950 until 1967.

He also published a 1960 pamphlet, “A Fairly Compleat Lexicon of Baltimorese,” which provided examples of the peculiar accent and pronunciation of city residents. The pamphlet’s 130 entries included “fahr” for fire and “arhn” for iron, as well as “Murlin” for Maryland and “zinc” instead of sink.

The proper pronunciation of Baltimore is “Balamer” with the first syllable pronounced “Bal” as in Balmoral, and not bawl, and the middle “a” very faint, he said.

In a 2000 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Mr. Goodspeed said that he first encountered the city’s accent when he got off the train from his native Fort Worth, Texas, in 1941.

“The landlady in the first place I lived said she had to ‘wrench some dishes in the zinc.’ I had to figure that out. I’d never heard ‘wrench’ used for rinse or ‘zinc’ used for sink,” he said.

Although he had a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas Christian University, Mr. Goodspeed moved to Baltimore to work as a tool-and-die inspector at Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River. He began working at the Evening Sun after he was laid off by the company in 1948.

“I pounded the streets for three months trying to find work; finally the Evening Sun hired me,” Mr. Goodspeed said.

He took over “Mr. Peep’s Diary” when the writer who had been doing the column was called back into the Army for the Korean War. The column took its name from the 17th-century London diarist Samuel Pepys, whose name is pronounced “Peeps.”

“I loved doing Peep’s,” Mr. Goodspeed said. “I walked around the city in the morning. When I was younger, I’d walk 10 miles, get a lunch, come in and write it up. Later I had a lot of stringers. People ratting on their friends is what it was.”

Columns included tidbits such as the following from 1960:

“In the 800 block of Park Avenue, a painter hung a sign that read ‘Wet Yet’ on a freshly painted stair grill and explained that the message is much more psychologically effective than ‘Wet Paint,’ which tempts people to test the paint with their fingers to see if it’s dry yet.”

Mr. Goodspeed left the Evening Sun in 1967 and went on to edit the Carroll County Times for a year and the Towson Times for another year.

He wrote copy briefly for an ad agency, worked at a radio station, and later in public relations at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn, Md., where he retired in 1985.

He reviewed books for Maryland Public Television from 1974 to 1986, and in 1990, after moving to the Eastern Shore, for the Easton Star Democrat.

Along with book reviews, he also wrote essays for the Evening Sun, including his recollection of the old harbor.

“And only yesterday, it seems to me, long lines of men walked gangplanks to unload bananas from freighters tied up at Pier 1,” he wrote in 1981. “Bay liners tied up at another pier. Very good seafood was very cheap at another. You could sit on Pier 6, the lumber pier, and eat corned beef and pickles from Lombard Street.”

Survivors include his wife of 18 years, the former Anne Stinson; a son, John D. Goodspeed of Annapolis; a daughter, Harriet Brooke Martin of Ridge Manor, Fla., and a sister, Clara Louise Goodspeed of Denton, Md.

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