Black Country dialect

The Black Country dialect is spoken in the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and outlying parts of the city of Wolverhampton in the English county of West Midlands. It also influences the accents of towns and villages in the rural counties to the north, south and west of the Black Country. It is distinct from the accent heard in the neighbouring city of Birmingham.


In general, the Black Country dialect has resisted many of the changes from Middle English that are seen in other dialects of British English, resembling particularly that of the English language in northern England and West Country English.

The traditional Black Country dialect preserves many archaic traits of Early Modern English and even Middle English[3] and can be very confusing for outsiders. Thee, Thy and Thou are still in use, as is the case in parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. "'Ow B'ist," meaning "How are you?" is a greeting contracted from "How be-est thou?" with the typical answering being "'Bay too bah," ("I be not too bad"), meaning "I am not too bad." "I haven't seen her" becomes "I ay sid 'er." Black Country dialect often uses "ar" where other parts of England use "yes" (this is common as far away as Yorkshire). Similarly, the local version of "you" is pronounced /ˈj/ YOW, rhyming with "now." In older versions 'ye' Old English for you is used as it is in most northern parts of England and Scotland. The local pronunciation "goo" (elsewhere "go") or "gewin'" is similar to that elsewhere in the Midlands. It is quite common for broad Black Country speakers to say "'agooin'" where others say "going." This is found in the greeting "Ow b'ist gooin" (How are you), to which a typical response would be "Bostin ah kid" (very well). Although the term yam yam may come from ya'm (you are) ya/ye is an archaic form of you and in many areas ye (pronounced like yea or ya) is used 'owamya aer kid' 'ar ah'm owkay ta'. It might be possible that Black Country simply retains more country speech as opposed to Birmingham, where many country people settled in the Black Country unlike Birmingham which has been settled for a much longer period of time and has developed a town speech and has been influenced more by standard English much longer

A road sign containing local dialect was placed at the A461/A459/A4037 junction in 1997 before the construction of a traffic island on the site. The sign read, in translation,[4] "If you're soft (stupid) enough to come down here on your way home, your tea will be spoilt".[5][6] This island was completed in 1998 and was the first phase of the Dudley Southern By-Pass which was opened on 15 October 1999.

The dialect's perception was boosted in 2008 when an internet video, The Black Country Alphabet, described the whole alphabet in Black Country speak.[7]

Commonly used words

The following words are very prominent in the north of the Black Country including (Walsall, Dudley, Willenhall, Bloxwich, Wolverhampton, Great Barr, Sandwell, West Bromwich).

  • "Yow" = "You"
  • "Yam" = "You are"
  • "Am" = "Are"
  • "Arm" = "I'm"
  • "Bin" = "Been"
  • "Gewin" or "Gooin" = "Going"
  • "Thay" = "They"
  • "Oss" = "Horse"
  • "Tekkin" = "Taking"
  • "Cut" = "Canal"
  • "Ay/Ayn" = "Aint"
  • "Ova" = "Over"
  • "Cud" = "Could"
  • "Warra" = "What a"
  • "Wossant" or "War/wor" = "Wasn't" e.g. "it war/wor 'im"
  • "Blartin" = "Crying"
  • "Babbie" or "Babby" = "Baby"
  • "Me/Mar" = "My"
  • "Kaylied" = "Drunk"
  • "Arl" = "I'll"
  • "Dow" = "Don't"
  • "Tat" = "Junk"
  • "Tatting" = "Collecting scrap metal"
  • "Werk" = "Work"
  • "Loff/Laff" = "Laugh"
  • "Yed" = "Head"
  • "Jed" = "Dead"
  • "Ta" = "Thanks
  • "Ah'm" = "I'm"
  • "Aer Kid" or "Kidda" = young relative, a sibling or friend
  • "Arr" = "Yes"
  • "Nah" = "No"
  • "Summat" = "Something"
  • "Mekkin" = "Making"
  • "Med" = "Made"
  • "Sayin" = "saying"

The neighbouring City of Birmingham may be called "Brum-a-jum" (Birmingham's colloquial name is Brummagem, a corruption of its older name of Bromwicham[8]  and hence West Bromwich) or Birminam (missing the "g" and "h" out and saying it the 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." However its unlikely yam yam comes from yow'm as the sound is totally different its more like from ye (archaeic form of you) as in yer'm which when said quick sounds like yams as in "yam gooin daft" you're going silly, or don't be so stupid in translation. How many still say this ye'm form is unknown. "Ye" for you sounds different to "ya" (which is spoken with a schwa vowel) which means your. "Yo" can also be used in the same sentence as "ye" e.g. "ye'm not gooin agen am yo?" Some areas also use "yo'me" and "yow'm" depending on location and local dialect and phrases as with Birmingham can differ from area to area, so there is basic dialect variation across the Black Country without differing in the basic Black Country words. Quick speech and blended words as in "shutyarow up" (shut your row up, meaning be quiet) can seem hard to understand and can even sound like "shutchowrow up". These blendings are to be thought of as products of Black Country pronunciation, not separate dialectal words.

The general intonation can sound even more similar to that of the West Country dialects, which also has an up and down sound, though different to Brummie which tends to be one tone and going down at the end.


  1. , Our changing pronunciation, John Wells
  2. "Black Country Dialect". Retrieved 2015-01-28.
  3. Staff and Agencies Wolverhampton researches Black Country dialect Guardian Unlimited, 27 January 2003
  4. Dee-Organ (27 January 2003). "The Black Country". Archived from the original on 26 September 2006.
  5. Clark 2013, pp. 92–94.
  6. "A collection of weird news stories from around the world". Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  7. "Black Country – Entertainment – Watch: The Black Country Alphabet Song". BBC. 15 December 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  8. The Church Warden's Book of St John's Parish Church, Halesowen, includes an early reference to an amount paid "to the organ builder of Bromwicham".


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