With the Commonwealth Games taking place there between 28th July and 8th August, the UK’s second city finds itself in the glare of the international spotlight, a place where it has never felt very comfortable. Brummies, as the city’s inhabitants are commonly known, are self-deprecating to a fault, and are so accustomed to hearing their city denigrated that they seem surprised, even incredulous, when it receives positive attention. In the hope that plenty of that will be forthcoming over the 12 days of the Games, here are a few terms outsiders just might hear on the streets of Brum, delivered in what a 2014 opinion poll found was regarded as the least attractive accent in the whole of the British Isles.
To the west of Birmingham is the Black Country, once the UK’s industrial heartland. Many terms that are commonly thought of as Brummie, such as bostin (fantastic), donnies (hands), outdoor (an off licence) and tararabit! (see you!) are in fact originally from this region.
The standard form of greeting in Brum, the correct response to which is alright! After nearly 30 years in the city, I remain incapable of delivering either greeting or response with any degree of conviction.
A common term of endearment. Combines with Alright, as in Alright bab?
Used to mean ‘lend’, as in Can you borrow me your pen?
Familiar term for Birmingham, the UK’s second city, located in the West Midlands, population somewhat over a million. Also, less frequently, Brummagem.
Both a resident of the city of Birmingham and the much-maligned dialect used there, and the related adjective.
A bread roll.
A forward roll, as in Mom, mom, I just did a gambol!
A roundabout (the traffic kind, not the fairground kind).
Mum, mother, ma, mummy: in short, your mother. Not an affectation, or an American import, this is the term you will see on every Mother’s Day card produced by every child attending every Birmingham primary school ever.
A cuddle, as in Aw, I was just giving the babby a munch!
To run away fast.
Opinions differ on this one. My Brummie brother-in-law uses it for fizzy drinks; others are adamant that it refers to fruit squash, and that fizzy drinks are fizzy pop.
Loose change: a term destined to die out if the current trend towards cashlessness continues.
Frozen flavoured treat encased in plastic. Known elsewhere as an ice pop.
To truant or skive, as in His mom lets him wag it whenever he feels like it.
Disclaimer: I am a Brummie by adoption, not by birth, so the above was compiled with the help of Brummie friends, and friends of friends. My thanks to them; any howlers are entirely the author’s responsibility.
Liz Potter is a freelance lexicographer and translator who lives in Bournville, Birmingham. Yes, you can smell the chocolate.
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