Prompted today by the newspaper article headlined ‘Midlands school BANS children from using ‘damaging Black Country’ dialect.’
…I watch another blast of color fill the Canadian skies, the children drink Eggnog chatting with a twang of Canadian whispering through their English accents, the teens are getting ready to sit around a campfire for the night at Switchbank ranch.
The subtle influence of beautiful BC. British Columbia.
For 39 years of my young life I was influenced by another BC.
The Black Country, UK.
So, for today’s post I thought I’d introduce my Canadian readers to some Black Country facts and dialect. Yes. We have our own dialect. Contrary to popular (Canadian) belief that I speak like Lady Mary from Downton Abbey.
The Black Country is an area of the English West Midlands north and west of Birmingham and south and east of Wolverhampton. During the Industrial Revolution, it became one of the most industrialised parts of Britain with coal mines, iron foundries and steel mills producing a high level of air pollution.
Hence the name.
The region was described as ‘Black by day and red by night’ by Elihu Burritt, the American Consul to Birmingham in 1862.
In common with most parts of the UK, the extent to which the Black country accent and dialect are used varies from person to person and across the Black Country itself, with some elements of the dialect being stronger in some towns than others.
Despite the close proximity, many inhabitants of the Black Country resist hints at any relationship to people living in Birmingham, which may be called “Brum-a-jum” (way it is spelt). Residents of Birmingham (Brummies) meanwhile often refer to their Black Country neighbours as “Yam Yams”, a reference to the use of “Yow am” (or yow’m) instead of “You are”.
Studies show that 80% of the Black Country words used are that of Anglo Saxon descent. The Anglo Saxons (500AD) were brave and warlike people, expanding across England and pushing it’s native Celts westwards settling in the area.
So here are some examples of Black Country phrases, should you need them, otherwise known as guide to ‘yam yam spake.’
*keep out the oss road – get out of the way also stay on the pavement
*it ay arf black ova bill’s muva’s – looks like there’s a storm coming
*bostin fittle – great food
*ar bin all round the reekin – I’ve been all over the place
*stop ya blartin – stop crying
*stop ya werriting – stop worrying
*yowm like a bibble in can – you never stop talking
*ar bin – I am
*ar bay – I’m not
*ar cor – I can’t
*yow bin bost it ay ya – you’ve broken it haven’t you
*ow bin ya me cocker? – how have you been my friend?
*yowm – you are
*aye ya – aren’t you
*dowa – door
*mayyte – friend
*oss – horse
*wo’ – will not
*kidda – friend
*goo – go
*wick – week
*yampy – stupid
*tarrarabit – goodbye
*tay – tea (meal – dinner)
An example of a conversation.
Kid: Tay, I want me tay.
Mom: Yow cor ave yer tay, tay tay time!
Precious. Love my peeps.
I could go on to write about how my family settled in the mud huts on the Lye waste, or how my Black Country Uncle knocked out a donkey or how Phil’s Great Nan lived on a barge on the Nine Locks canal with 22 siblings – shipping iron ore from the Black Country to London. But I’ll save that for another post.
True to my musing form I have to end with a bible verse – courtesy of the Black Country Gospels.
“God’s gid me power in ‘Evv’n an’ airth. Goo an’ praych the gospel ter the peeple of all nairshuns, baptisin’ ’em in the nairme o’ the Fairther, the Son, an’ th’ ‘Oly Ghost, taychin ’em ter dew the things ar’n cummarndid yer”.
“Wile the shepuds wus waatchin’ oover thayer flocks..a brite lite shon all rahnd ’em. It day ‘arf put the wind up ’em”
Med me lof, have a bostin’ day me babs.
Leave me a Black Country message in comments!
See you tomorrow,
Love, Our ‘Shell xo
Dedicated to Our Em.