Apart from a brief flirtation with Glasgow, I’ve lived in Birmingham all my life. Not all over Birmingham, you understand – just south Birmingham. In fact, for 31 of my 33 years I’ve lived within four miles of my birth. Meh – call me a homebody.
Despite this, I don’t have much of an accent (or so I’m told – although this is mainly by southerners who are probably expecting a “yam yam” black country drawl). I do apparently have a “hard G” (in other words, I pronounce the Gs in words like banging and singing), and the more I drink, the more I go down-then-up at the end of sentences… but I don’t strangulate my vowels, and I certainly don’t say “ar” instead of yes.
So, having been told on many occasions that I “must be a posh Brummie”, I’m regularly surprised to find that words I use all the time are actually West Midlands vernacular.
For example, when giving directions, I’ve always told people to, say, turn left, “at the next island”. Apparently most people only ever call them roundabouts. Who knew?
Likewise, I’ll stop at the garage (pronounced garridge, of course) rather than the petrol station on the way home from the pub. Why has it taken me 30-odd years to find out that “garage” in this context is unique to Midlanders? I’m still not convinced it is!
Some words and phrases are historical and I wonder if Brummies are just being old fashioned by continuing to use them. For example, when I was younger, the off licence at the bottom of the road was “the outdoor”. This dates back to the time when pubs had a separate entrance for off-site sales. But wasn’t that the same all over the country? Why do people in the Midlands still use the word?
Others are just unfathomable. “Wash your donnies”, my mom used to say before lunch. In an effort to make up for using such unbecoming slang, she would hurriedly follow this with “from the French, donner – to give…” She’s right, of course. But how on earth did that little channel-crossing gem happen?
Obviously I don’t want to turn this into a list of local dialect and slang – there are plenty of those around. I just enjoy being genuinely surprised, and wanted to share that. So I could go on (how do you pronounce “tooth”? Have you ever been deffed out, or dismissed as yampy? Does your chip shop sell potato scallops?)… but I won’t. And besides, as my dear departed Nanna used to say: I’m off to the larpom.