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Black Country dialect
Native toUnited Kingdom
RegionBlack Country
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3
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The Black Country dialect is spoken by many people in the Black Country, a region covering most of the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.[1] The traditional dialect preserves many archaic traits of Early Modern English and even Middle English[2] and may be unintelligible for outsiders. This dialect is distinct from and maintains more traditional characteristics than the dialect of Birmingham, which has been more influenced by standard English due to having been urban for a longer time. It has also influenced the accents of the towns and villages in the counties to the north, south and west of the region.


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 Northern English and West Country English.

The general intonation exhibits notable similarities to that of the West Country dialects, characterised by a distinctive undulating contour. However, this contrasts with the Brummie dialect, where intonation is generally monotonous, often descending in tone towards the end of sentences.


Pronouns thee, thy and thou are still in use, as is the case in parts of Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire. "'Ow B'ist," meaning "How are you?" is a greeting contracted from "How be-est thou?" with the typical answer 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 /j/, rhyming with "so."

Among older speakers, ye is used for you, as it is in most northern parts of England and Scotland. It is also common for older speakers to say "Her" instead of "She" ("'Er day did 'ah?", meaning "She didn't did she?"). 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, How’s it going?”), to which a typical response would be "Bostin ah kid" ("Very well our kid"). Although the term yam yam may come from ya'm (you am),[9] 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."


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[10][citation needed] and hence West Bromwich) or Birminam (missing the "g" and "h" out and saying it the way it is spelt). Natives of Birmingham (Brummies) meanwhile often refer to their Black Country neighbours as "Yam Yams", a reference to the use of "yow am" instead of "you are". However its unlikely yam yam comes from yow'm, as the sound is totally different; it's more likely from ye (archaic form of you), as in yer'm, which when said quickly sounds like yam, 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 from "ya" (which is spoken with a schwa vowel), which also means you. "Yo" can also be used in the same sentence as "ye/ya" e.g. "Yo ay gooin agen am ya?" 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 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". The blendings are to be thought of as products of Black Country pronunciation, not separate dialectal words.

In popular culture

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, If yowm saft enuff ter cum dahn 'ere agooin wum, yowr tay ull be spile't!!, which means,[11] "If you're soft (stupid) enough to come down here on your way home, your tea will be spoilt".[12][13]

In 2008, an internet video The Black Country Alphabet, described the whole alphabet in Black Country dialect, boosting the dialect's perception.[14]

Authentic recordings

The Survey of English Dialects recorded several traditional dialects from in and around the Black Country, which can be heard on the British Library Sound Archive website.


  1. ^ "What and where is the Black Country?". BBC. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  2. ^ Staff and Agencies Wolverhampton researches Black Country dialect Guardian Unlimited, 27 January 2003
  3. ^ Trudgill, P; Chambers, J (1998). Dialectology. p. 110. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511805103. ISBN 9780521593786.
  4. ^ Our changing pronunciation
  5. ^ "Black Country Dialect". Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  6. ^ Manley (1971). p. 31. ((cite book)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Clark, Urszula (2008). Mrs. p. 145.
  8. ^ Hughes, Arthur; Trudgill, Peter (1996). p. 55. ((cite book)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Michael Pearce, “The Ethnonym Geordie in North East England” Names, Vol. 63 No. 2, June 2015, 75-85
  10. ^ 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".
  11. ^ Dee-Organ (27 January 2003). "The Black Country". Archived from the original on 24 September 2006.
  12. ^ Clark 2013, pp. 92–94.
  13. ^ "A collection of weird news stories from around the world". Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  14. ^ "Black Country – Entertainment – Watch: The Black Country Alphabet Song". BBC. 15 December 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  15. ^ "Himley, Staffordshire - Survey of English Dialects - Accents and dialects | British Library - Sounds". Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Hilton, Shropshire - Survey of English Dialects - Accents and dialects | British Library - Sounds". Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  17. ^ "Romsley, Worcestershire - Survey of English Dialects - Accents and dialects | British Library - Sounds". Retrieved 24 May 2021.


Further reading