Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Brum - Birmingham (formerly Brummagem) and full of Brummies

Brummie, Brummagem, Brum


Noun. Slang. Mid-19th century.
[Shortened from BRUMMAGEM.]

(A nickname for) the town (now a city) of Birmingham, England.


Adjective & noun. Archaic. Mid-17th century.
[Dialect form of BIRMINGHAM.]

A1 adjective. Of the quality of coins and some other goods made in Birmingham, England;
counterfeit, sham, tawdry. M17

A2 adjective. obsolete. See BIRMINGHAM.

B1 noun. obsolete. See BIRMINGHAM.

B2 noun. (an article of) counterfeit or cheap and showy ware. M19


Noun & adjective. Colloquial. Also Brummy. Mid-20th century.
[formed as preceding: see -IE.]

(A native or inhabitant) of Birmingham, England.

The Brummie accent, one of the most recognisable of the UK's plethora of regional accents, frequently tops the "Worst British Accent" type poll, and is attached to stereotypes such as Brummies being stupid and uneducated (in UK slang, a 'Brummie screwdriver' is a hammer). It's also a mercilessly impersonated accent, being (fairly) easy to copy for crude comedic purposes; in fact, during my research for this post, I found it exceptionally difficult to find a good quality video of someone Brummie talking in a Brummie accent, as YouTube is so full of people impersonating it. All of this, quite naturally, is rather irksome to the good people of Birmingham, who feel that the stereotypes are unfair (which is fair enough), and also feel that if us outsiders are going to impersonate them, we could at least bother to make sure we're impersonating the right accent, and not confusing a Brummie accent with, say, a Black Country one (don't ask me - I wouldn't have a clue).
Veteran BBC broadcaster Sue Lawley who consciously changed her Black Country accent at the start of her career
(photo courtesy of BBC Radio 4)
So, are Brummies a stupid and uneducated lot? Is Birmingham really a big, rough, dirty, run-down city full of unemployed louts, as its stereotype suggests? Well, it's worth noting that, contrary to popular opinion, Birmingham is a rather exceptional place, with a proud history in trade and commerce, manufacturing, the arts and literature and architecture. Some rather 'bostin' facts about Birmingham include:
  • It's the UK's second most populous city after London with a population of over one million.
  • It's the birthplace of numerous great musicians and bands, including: Black Sabbath, ELO, Dodgy, Ocean Colour Scene, Duran Duran, and UB40
  • Birmingham's 18th century canal network, with 56kms of waterways, is longer than that of Venice
  • Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter is the epicentre of the UK's jewellery industry, accounting for over 40% of the national production
One last thing - if (like me) you didn't ever know the origin of Brummie, it's from the name Brummagem, which was the dialectical form of Birmingham and has been in use since the 17th century. I also leave you with a video of Roy Wood of ELO being interviewed so that you can hear a Brummie accent. You can also listen to a BBC discussion regarding the Brummie accent by clicking here.

*It's not the best sound quality, so if you know of a better example of someone talking Brummie, do let me know and I'll gladly include it.

Are you from Brum?

Do you speak with a Brummie accent? Do you suffer from dialectism?

Do you have any thoughts on the accent or city that you'd like to share with the world?

Do please comment below.


  1. I've heard Barry Cryer tell a lovely story about Noddy Holder being offered a kipper tie and replying yes, thanks, two sugars.

  2. The Brummie accent is wonderfully awful as was most of the city until recently. But, having visited Birmingham only a few months ago, I have to say I really like it. The Bull Ring, the Mailbox, Chamberlain Square all well worth seeing. Just don't ask for directions. "Downt wurrie mite, Oil shao yuh whure it is...

    1. I was exactly the same, A.N. I had beautifully ignorant opinions of Birmingham until they were shattered by actually going there, at which point I thought: "Hey! This isn't the complete dump everyone says it is. In fact, I rather like it!"

  3. It might not be the pithiest of mantras, but I still stand by 'Never trust someone from a place whose coat of arms depicts a blacksmith holding toilet paper, standing idly by as a woman, holding a brick and a palette, is bludgeoned to death by a naked dwarf hiding behind an elaborate helmet.'


    1. Breviloquent it might not be, but it's a comprehensively specific mantra and I applaud you for it.

  4. How interesting. I learned something I didn't know today. I've always loved the various accents found in England. We have a few here in the US--NewYork, East Coast, West Coast. lol English accents are all wonderful to my ears.

    1. It's interesting you say that, Beth, because as maligned as the Brummie accent is by fellow Britons, studies also showed that it's a big hit with foreigners, who find it sweetly melodious.

    2. Big hit, coat of arms, brummie .... we've come full circle.


  5. I was born in Brum, moved to Leamington as child, lost my Midlands accent going to London. My fondest memories are of Brummie aunts with varying strengths of the local accent. I've always adored the accent as the music of home.

    Just to correct your historical reference. When I was a mature student in the l980s at University College London I was told by a Professor who specialised in Place Names that Brummagem was actually a fossil word of an ancient (unknown) language, one of six left. Birmingham is of course a version of the very old Warwickshire village name, as the village is recorded on the earliest maps. On a map I have of Warwickshire dated 1610 the village is called Bermicham. Brummagem somehow survived orally.

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