The Black Country - Last Haven of the Mercian Tongue

"Evening in the Black Country" by Edwin Butler Bayliss
"Evening in the Black Country" by Edwin Butler Bayliss

Many readers will be familiar with the regional languages of Cornwall and Wales, yet there is one at the heart of England that is largely ignored. To the north and west of the city of Birmingham can be found the urban conurbation that is collectively known as The Black Country. Within this area are included the towns of Dudley, West Bromwich, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton, as well as many smaller villages that were swallowed up by progress. It is widely thought that this region earned its name through the Industrial Revolution, where it became one of the most industrialised parts of Britain. Air pollution from iron foundries, forges, and steel mills caused buildings to become blackened with soot. The very ground itself appeared black, thanks to coal seams in the area.

The Black Country often seems to take a lot of stick from the rest of the British. Not only is the accent amusing to some, the area is to this day a vast industrial landscape. Unsightly structures from the 1960s urban development schemes stand awkwardly next to rows of Victorian terraces, built to house the work forces. Famous for dishes such as grey peas and bacon, battered chips, and groaty pudding, it has been brushed aside as an area of neglect and poverty. If you get to know the area more intimately, then it is full of hidden surprises. The accent itself points to a rather extraordinary preservation of a language spoken a thousand years ago. Worthy of note and preservation, the Black Country may be one of the last places in Britain where you will hear an Anglo Saxon dialect used amongst a modern population.

Rough map showing main languages spoken in England during the 11th-15th Centuries.
Rough map showing main languages spoken in England during the 11th-15th Centuries.

The Source of the Dialect

There are several languages and dialects spoken in the United Kingdom, which point to the history and culture of the people that speak them. In the strongholds of a particular culture, we see the "indigenous" languages and dialects still spoken.

A brief look through history shows us how respective migrations and invasions to the British Isles have shaped the English language.

Common Britonnic (Brythonic) languages were believed to have been developed from Proto-Celtic [1]. The Romans introduced some Latin to English, with the next influence being brought to Britain by the Saxons. Along came the Norse, then the Normans with their French influence. Throw these all into the pot, give it a good mix, and you end up with modern English.

Overall, modern English is considered a Germanic language. In this article, we take a look at a region of England where 80% of the language derives from early Middle English and the West Anglian Mercian dialect.

Map of the Midlands circa 912AD.
Map of the Midlands circa 912AD. | Source

The Saxon Impact on Language

The 5th Century brought the arrival of the Saxons, Jutes, and Angles into Britain. Arriving from the Jutland peninsula and area around the Baltic Sea, they soon settled in the fertile lands of England and made it their own. The north and midland areas of England were mostly settled by Angles. The Jutes settled in Kent, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight, whilst the Saxons occupied the rest of the country. We would describe these people as being the Anglo-Saxons, but they would have described themselves with the names of their own tribes. Examples of these include Cantie for those of the Kingdom of Kent, Westseaxe meaning "West Saxons" who hailed from the Wessex area, Norþanhymbre for the people of the province north of the river Humber, and Mierce meaning "Border People" who we now describe as Mercians. Whilst local dialects were spoken by each of these tribes, there were common similarities in the language we know as Old English.

We are all familiar with the tale of 1066 and the disastrous end to the Anglo-Saxon rule of England when William the Conqueror (also known as William the Bastard) invaded England and defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. After the shift in power, French became the language of the ruling classes, and steadily, the language changed to incorporate many new words. Some snobbery became evident with certain words being put aside for the commoners, and we see many of these appearing as swear words in modern language after they fell out of favour with the more powerful landowners and lords of the new Norman regime.

Slowly, Old English changed to Middle English. It is worth noting that at this point in history, being able to read and write was not a common skill, so the vast majority of commoners would still use local words and dialects.

Early Middle English leaves the greatest impression on the dialect of the Black Country. Used between 1100-1300, this vocabulary also saw Norse words used commonly in the north of England. For some reason, the Black Country did not seem to catch up with the rest of England during the period of change of the late 1400s, early 1500s when the "Chancery Standard" helped to shape modern English. The locals favoured Early Middle English with a strong Mercian dialect.

Clues to a Culture

Travelling through the region, it is notable that almost all of the names of the towns and districts around the area are derived from Anglo-Saxon words. Here, we have a list of the original spellings and translations with their modern alternatives:

Halh's Owen (halh meaning "nook" or "valley", Owen from being gifted by King Henry II at a later date to Welsh Prince, David Owen) = Halesowen

Willa's Halh (Willa may be translated as "willow", or may be the name of a the leader of that particular settlement) = Willenhall

Walh Halh (meaning "valley" of the "Welsh speakers") = Walsall

Wednes Burgh (Wednes meaning "Woden's", Burgh meaning "hill", "barrow", or "fortification") = Wednesbury

Woden's Feld (meaning "Woden's Field", believed to be land sacred to and possibly the site of a ritual enclosure or dedicated to Woden) = Wednesfield

Wulfruna's Heantown (The town is believed to have been founded by Lady Wulfrun in 985, Heantown meaning "principle enclosure") = Wolverhampton

Duddan Leah (Leah meaning "clearing", Duddan thought to be the town's founder) = Dudley

From this small sample of place names, we already see some indication of the history, religion, and culture of this area. Women could be seated in places of power, the Brythonic speaking Welsh were further east than today, and areas were set aside to the Germanic god Woden. Characteristics of place names being derived from such a language are not limited to the Black Country; most towns in the areas where the Anglo-Saxons dwelt are also named in this older tongue.

But how does this legacy show its presence in the modern Black Country region?

This area covers most of the places incorporated in The Black Country

A Living Language

Black Country dialect has an almost "sing-songy" noise to it, in a similar manner to modern Norwegian. Words are pronounced in a rather unexpected manner, and you can hear the Germanic influence in the pronunciations.

The "ea" in peas and tea is replaced by an "ay" sound, resulting in these words being pronounced as pays and tay. The verb "a" is pronounced in some instances as an "o" with words such as man, hammer, rat, and laugh becoming mon, 'ommer, rot, and loff. Where words start with an "h", the first letter is not pronounced, so home, head, and hungry become 'ome, 'ed, and 'ungry.

Ed Conduit, writing for the BBC Black Country [2] explains how this replacement of "a" with "o" is a relic from Old English, where the main dialect spoken was West Saxon. It was the Mercians that are believed to have used this quirk in their own local dialect. The Great Vowel Shift occurred between the times of Chaucer and Shakespeare, and over several generations the vowels in the English language changed. The Mercian descendants of this particular region kept their vowel sounds, resisting the change for a reason unknown. It is thought by some that Chaucer himself would have spoken with this accent.

The grammar seems also to have resisted change. Verbs used in Black Country Dialect display characteristics that are rather unique and show features from early Middle English, particularly when it comes to past tense. Instead of changing the word itself, "ed" was added directly. So we have past tenses appearing as si'd instead of saw, cotch'd instead of caught, and gi'd instead of gave.

Most interestingly of all, around 80% of words used by speakers of Black Country Dialect are Germanic, compared to supposedly 26% for the rest of modern English.

"Am Yow Ready?"

So now, onto the fun bit. The video below is a recording of the Black Country comedienne, Dolly Allen. It gives the reader an excellent indication of how the modern Black Country Dialect sounds. Is it possible that the Mercians of the 11th Century also sounded a bit like this? The language structure and words used are certainly very similar.

For those of you wishing to study the dialect further, the Ancient Manor of Sedgley provides a fine dictionary of words and phrases [3 & 4]. It is not just the Black Country that uses Middle-English, some rural parts of Worcestershire do too. But that, dear reader, is for another article to come.

[1] An Atlas for Celtic Studies, Koch, John T (2007)

[2] Black Country Dialect, Conduit, Ed (2008)

[3] "Ow We Spake"

[4] Black Country Sayings

© 2014 Pollyanna Jones

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CarolynEmerick profile image

CarolynEmerick 2 years ago

It's a regional dialect I wasn't familiar with! Great info :-) voted up and shared to my HP feed :-)

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 2 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Fascinating hub and great information on a dialect I really didn't know too much about. We may live on a small island, but there are so many changes in spoken language and their history is fascinating

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

So interesting. I heard that in many places, here anyway, in the US, that many regional dialects are slowly disappearing. I once met a woman who had grown up in the South and I could not understand a word she said. After several meetings (she was a neighbor) I came to understand what she said, but it did take some time.

I listened to the video here and could understand little of what she said. I got a bit of it, but...Kind of sad, if it's true that those old dialects are disappearing. It's a way of touching history, of hearing the sounds of the past. (voted up and shared)

CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

Very interesting. Great, informative hub. I love the beauty of languages (and dialects) and I always find the Celtics in particular very fascinating.

Voted up, interesting and useful.

Mike10613 profile image

Mike10613 2 years ago from England

Good article. I'm hoping to be out photographing hosses in the Black Country today. It's a Sunday tradition to go trottin' Aye it? :)

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Ar, you do see a lot of osses knocking about around there. :-)

Simon Powers 2 years ago

Bostin' article ar kid.

Growing up in the blackcountry 'Wednesbury' in particular and now having hardly any discernable accent (until I get spayking with me muther and further).

Even when I was a youngster I thought it strange when listening to my great grandparents who lived in Darlaston spok eever so slightly different to us Wednesbury folk.

They would use (I guess Germanic words) such as:

How Bist ? (How are you)

How Bin Ya ? (How have you been)

Weer thee bin ? (Where have you been)

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

I love to hear it spoken. Funnily enough I had a great gran called Dolly who spoke just like Dolly Allen! Thanks for taking the time to comment, I am glad you enjoyed it.

bethperry profile image

bethperry 2 years ago from Tennesee

What a fascinating article! Voted up and enjoyed the lesson!

Jill 2 years ago

I am from the Black Country and always thought of it as dull, toneless and flat. However the other day someone said it was "tunefull" so I was surprised to see it being mentioned on here as "sing songy"

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

It's surprising how many non-Midlanders have commented on the ups and downs in the tones of the accent when spoken. :-)

sarah scarlett 2 years ago

yo core beet the way we spake

Colleen Swan profile image

Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

Hi, I am an American living in County Durham and my Hubby is a Cockney. I listen very carefully. Excellent and interesting Hub.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

All these different dialects and accents must be fun for you to hear!

Russell Eaton 2 years ago

Really liked. Aside from Worcestershire there is an enclave in what is now Telford in Shropshire. The Dawley district has a proud dialect quite distinct from the rest of the area. I was brought up in this area and have subsequently worked with many chaps from the Black Country and see many similarities. I wonder if there was population transfer at some time during the industrial revolution ?

Jason 2 years ago

Doe fear me wench, we yung uns spake just as good black country as them old foke ;)

I love our dialect, we might get mocked or worse...mistaken for brummies but there's enough of us who can speak it :)

P.s. Dolly Allen still meks me loff

chezchazz profile image

chezchazz 2 years ago from New York

First I've heard about this dialect. Very interesting and a pleasure to read your work.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Russell, there may well have been. Certainly lots of the smaller villages were swallowed up by the conurbation during the Industrial Revolution. You can still find pockets of agricultural land throughout the area, and migration would have helped secure a steady wage all year round. It would have been tempting for many, I'm sure.

Jason, I am glad to hear it! The dialect really is something to be proud of. Only today was I corrected on the correct pronunciation of a "sponner" ;-)

Thanks chezchazz, I am glad you enjoyed the read.

mike 2 years ago

I know there are Baggies supporters in places like Telford and other more newer built districts as many were moved during slum clearances. I pronounce sure shu'wa, window winda I think that may come from an older word windr as r's are pronounced a as many er's are. School is pronounced sch'werl, I always thought I sounded a rich tone, and there was words like cowin' mithered, incklin, yampy and saft and aer kid/aer Arn (our Arnold) or even kidda etc, I know from watching others on tv as in the north the words are very similar such as int for isn't, chuffed, miffed, but ma mom used jus' me barra meaning just my kind of thing, barra being an old word for barrow as in the northern expression just my barrow.

mike 2 years ago

I cannot speak for anyone else but I pronounce I as ah, im as arm, don't as doe, wont as woe, take as tek, make as mek, made as med, and you are as y'am and sometimes yo am, as in y'am a roight gooer int ya and all very quickly too a kind of yammering, always thought we work hard and play hard and have a very cheeky dry humour. I rarely pronounce t's at the ends and h's at the start and s's sound like z's which I think is how old english speakers said them, cuz bus is buz, and leasowes is lezzoes. To is ter and do is der. You is said ya where arm frum although yo is also used and ya's is the plural, c ya's (think its from ye for you) layta, tarra a bit, n'nite!

mike 2 years ago

Favourites are 'ya gooen ter tha flicks" and "ya tae 'ull go cowd"

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Where I am we pronounce "flower" as "floowah" and "shower" as "shoowah".

Akan Beardsmore 2 years ago

'I ay gunna tell ya agen.....keep a-out th-OSS road!'

Anthony Paskin 2 years ago

Ard Werkin “Black Country Mon”

Blokes from the black country they dow care

I ay frum brummagem no wee’a nee’a thee’a

People think arm thick cuz the way ar spake

Yow think wot ya want me mon

Arm cleverer than wot yow think

Just cuz ar cor pronounce me werds.

Ar left skool wen I was a still a nipper

A life in the f’ourndry waits for me me mon

Off t’ werk in the dark and the cowd

D’ourn the bonk an along the cut

The glow of the f’oundry shaps light the morning sky

Cuppa tay befowa we start sets us up f the day.

F’ourndry dust in ya fers and d’ourn ya throwt

Ar guw t’werk an ar werk ard

Blokes in this shap werk like pit ponys

Its an ard day knockin ourt in the fourndry

Yow no yow dun a days graft then me mon

Yow’ll av Onds like shuvuls and fore arms like popeye

Swingin a sledge omma all day lung

Mar backs ertin a bit these days

But tomorras another day

Rub a bit of oss linament on it

Rub it in well an it’ll be all rite in the morning

The ummuns in the ours mekin ya tay

Keeping it warm f’ wen yow get um

Few pints in the booza afta werk t’ wash d’ourn the dust

Germ ov darts wiv ya mates, 501 an our’t

That’s wot Black Country Blokes am all a b’ourt

By Anthony Paskin

Snakesmum profile image

Snakesmum 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

Tried listening to the accent in the video, and had a very hard time with it. Gave up, I'm sorry to say. Some of the dialects in the UK are very difficult to understand.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Anthony, I love that poem! I hope you don't mind if I share it on my FB page?

Snakesmum, it does take a little getting used to!

Andrea Appleyard 2 years ago

Be really nice to have that in English.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

I'll do my best to translate to Common English (corrections welcomed!! :-) )

Hard Working "Black Country Man"

Men from the Black Country they do care

I'm not from Birmingham nowhere near there

People think I'm stupid because of the way I speak

You think what you like my man

I am cleverer than what you think

Just because I can't pronounce my words.

I left school when I was still very young

A life in the foundry waits for me man

Off to work in the dark and the cold

Down along the bank and along the cut*

The glow of the foundry shops light the morning sky

A cup of tea before we start setting ourselves up for the day.

Foundry dust in your face and down your throat

I go to work and I work hard

Blokes in this shop work like pit ponies

It's a hard day knocking out in the foundry

You know you've done a day's work then my man

You'll have hands like shovels and forearms like Popeye

Swinging a sledgehammer all day long

My back's hurting a bit these days

But tomorrow's another day

Rub a bit of horse liniment on it

Rub it in well and it’ll be all right in the morning

The women in the house making your evening meal

Keeping it warm for when you get home

A few pints in the pub after work to wash down the dust

A game of darts with your friends, 501 and I'm out

That's what Black Country men are all about

*A cut is an embankment or path, usually along a canal

By Anthony Paskin

Cyril Randle 2 years ago

I saw this first time today and it follows on a thread about a shop closing that sold Black Country faggots. When I was a child in the 1930s, we all ate Faggits un Pays, very cheap, (chep) and nourishing. The peas were like small pebbles before cooking and were known as 'Grey Farters'. There was a common 'goodbye' phrase used too when we left a family group or party, "Tarra a bit an' thank yer fer 'avin' we".

Garth Pearce 2 years ago

Russell - There is a definite link between Dawley, Shropshire and the Black Country. I traced my branch of the Pearce family tree which placed them in Much Wenlock, Salops in the mid-1700's and then to Dawley in the 1830's. There were three generations of shoemakers who by the 1841 census had moved to Soho Road, Handsworth (simply following the work provided by the Industrial Revolution) and then to West Bromwich in the census of 1881. I like to think that my great, great grandfather, James, born in Much Wenlock in 1826, would have been an early Albion supporter at the grounds near the town centre in the 1880's - but have, sadly, no firm evidence. My father, Dennis, an Albion man like my grandfather who first attended games in 1906, spent his last 30 years living and working on the Dorset coast. But his Black Country accent remained, proud and true, as if created in cast iron in the heart of foundaries and mines.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

I was surprised when I first ate pays, I never knew they would be grey! I had a go at groaty pudding too, which I enjoyed, but it was not to everyone's taste. Imagine a thick porridge made with oats, leeks, and beef. Would keep you going all day.

aelfred 2 years ago

You have a few things twisted. Englisc/sh is the name given to the collaboration of anglo saxon jutish. as Engliscmen we arrived after the fall of the romans so how could they have given latin to the olde Englisc language AND THEN the saxon sector of the englisc come... majority having spoke a saxon dialect of olde englisc....?! And how could we have settled into England if we created the modern kingdoms here after coming from olde engla land (now denmark and northern germany). We created a new england, we didn't come to a pre-existing England.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi aelfred, in that paragraph I am referring to English, the modern language. So you're right, English as we know it wouldn't have existed then. Just trying to illustrate a timeline of some of the cultures that added to the language we have today.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi aelfred, in that paragraph I am referring to English, the modern language. So you're right, English as we know it wouldn't have existed then. Just trying to illustrate a timeline of some of the cultures that added to the language we have today.

chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 2 years ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

Really enjoyed this article. I think you must have been inspired by David Crystal the writer and English language fanatic?

I can't believe that so many local dialects still survive in situ. You'd think that what with attempts to homogenise accents and such - through received pronunciation - we'd all be speaking the Queen's English by nah!!! Ecky thump! Thaz nivver bin more wrong our lad.

Isn't it strange how so many of us in the UK are so sensitive about accents and dialect? I suppose it's all related to our entrenched class system and the misguided notion that because someone speaks 'agricultural English' they're uneducated, poor and lower class. I find it all a tad snobbish.

And it's true that people from the Birmingham area - Brummies - and the Black Country are looked down on because of their accents and strange vocabulary. I confess I just about always start to snigger when I hear a thick Brummy accent. I shouldn't but I do. Your detailed historical facts help put things into perspective.

Although not from the Black Country I fall easily into dialect when I visit friends in the ex mining town I grew up in, in North Nottinghamshire, within a stone's throw of south Yorkshire, Yurkshaw, Yoksha, Yawkshir,Yoorkshaw.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

I think it's the sense of identity and community that strike so strongly in the regions, the dialect is a marker of such and helps people to bond whenever they bump into each other in distant places. I haven't heard of David Crystal, I will have to look him up! Thank you for that!

OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

Fascinating hub! Across the pond, we have some islands off the southeastern coast that speak Tudor English (not sure what you would call it) and I believe that in Canada, the French speakers in Montreal speak an older form of French. Voted up and shared.

OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

Sorry, I meant "Elizabethan English" and the correct city in Canada is Quebec. Not sure why my brain isn't working today!

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Thank you OldRoses! That sounds fascinating. Don't you worry, I'm a lot worse at times, especially before I have a cuppa!

Bill Grimes-Wyatt 24 months ago

I believe that I recall reading that a large number of Welsh were among the settlers of the Bay Islands of the Chesapeake and the adjoining marshes of the lower Eastern Shore. They have an accent that can be easily recognized, such as "CAM" as in a CAM DAY or CAM weather, being used on the Eastern Shore, while the fishermen on the Western Shore, will speak of "CALM" weather. On the Eastern Shore it is usual to call another man HONEY, as in "deed honey, I don't know neither head that lives down there.

I read many places that American English is becoming more uniform. However in the rural areas that have not had a massive influx of immigrants since the revolution, the natives still have distinctive speech patterns. A visit to local fairs will introduce you to local foods.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 24 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Oh yes, I heard about this! It is very interesting indeed. It appears that the natives looked after these stranded Welshmen and welcomed them into the tribe. I've read descriptions about how some of the dialect contained some Welsh, as you say, and that some tribe members (later discovered) had pale eyes. Something to study for another article maybe? :-)

Brian Langston profile image

Brian Langston 22 months ago from Languedoc Roussillon

Another bostin article me wench!

Bilston born and Bilston bred- Strong o' the arm and thick o' the yed!

Brian Langston profile image

Brian Langston 22 months ago from Languedoc Roussillon

...and shared on the Wolverhampton Past and Present FB Page.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 22 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Blinkin' eck!

It's surprising how much Black Country stock there is out there! :-) Thank you for sharing, Brian.

Brian Langston profile image

Brian Langston 22 months ago from Languedoc Roussillon

My pleasure Polly....

Liss 21 months ago

Lovely article, as a yam yam wench its nice our dialect is seen as something interesting and not just something to badly impersonate! I'd say home isn't 'ome its 'om or 'um. Depends on the person that but its definitely 2 letters! X

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 21 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Thanks both! I've heard it pronounced a few ways, most commonly "oh-um" or "om". It's hard to demonstrate how it's spoken when just trying to demonstrate the dropping of the "h". I'll try to tweak that passage a bit to show the pronunciation a bit better.

I'm honoured that this piece can be of help for your students too, Leanne.

Daz 21 months ago

Being from Crairdley (Cradley) which is a part of Halesowen, it was interesting to find out where the the towns name originated as it's often been a subject of debate down the pub. Different parts of the Black Country do have distinct differences. Taking home as an example I say um, Folks from Rowley Regis area say owum or as you said oh-um, I think wum is used West Brom/Wednesbury way.

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Pollyanna Jones 21 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Thanks Daz. I love how all these variations help pin-point a person to a particular area. Don't get me started on place names; I love finding out what they mean and the history behind them. So often they uncover really interesting stories all of their own.

jamie broadley 21 months ago

I speak in Germanic bilstonian then by all accounts having grown up in

We also say 'put wud in'th owal'

(Put the wood in the hole)m..meaning 'shut the door'

'Bay it cowad.?'

(Isn't Well i gu tu the fut of ah stairs.'

(I can't believe it!)

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Pollyanna Jones 21 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Jamie, thanks for adding those phrases! Maybe I should start putting a phrase book together ;-D

Hazel Cotterill. 21 months ago

My mom came from Dawley and I used to spend my summer holidays with my gran the accent always fascinated me I used to love to listen to her and her neighbours having a conversation I have never heard it anywhere else. Dawley is in what is now called Telford,

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Pollyanna Jones 21 months ago from United Kingdom Author

It's amazing how widespread the dialect is. It seems to go far beyond the areas where the coal stains the ground.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 21 months ago from the short journey

An interesting read. I've often thought it would be neat to have the resources to travel the UK and learn about more accents than the "popular" ones. I listened to the first few minutes of the video to hear the sing-song sounds, but could not understand enough to focus on it.

Your hub reminds me of trying to read and figure out the words of Dickens when I was a child. Over time I came to enjoy it, but initially, it was so foreign to me that I was confused. Also, you've reminded me of how many different accents are in our southern USA and how confused people from other places can become by them--and amused. :)

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 21 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Thanks RTalloni. It is incredible how in the UK we can have very different accents within such a small area. I grew up in a town only 13 miles south of my husband, and we both speak differently. Some are certainly hard to understand if you are not used to them.

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NisseVisser 19 months ago from On the Edge

Nice posting. I've been using the old Broad Sussex for some literary characters and have had a number of 'locals' insist they speak proper English in Sussex and have always done so. These are mostly 'Sheere-folk from Lunnon' so not to be taken seriously.

It's good to keep the interest in these regional variations alive and well.

Ken 14 months ago

Very interesting. I remember being told of German prisoners of war towards the end of the last conflict being allowed out 'on licence'. In the pubs in and around Cradley Heath they were able to understand some of the local dialect and engage in basic conversation.

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 12 months ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I spent months in Halesowen back in the seventies. The first time I spoke with someone from the Black Country, I had to sheepishly ask them three times to repeat themselves. Finally my cousin stepped in and told me they were just saying hello and that they were glad to meet me. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Clean Cook Lily profile image

Clean Cook Lily 9 months ago from Wolverhampton

Great article. I have been to Berlin, and from a distance some old, native Berliners really did sound like a couple of old Black Country guys having a chat. I do think the Black Country dialect is dying out though. I myself had a very pronounced accent when younger , using many of the words mentioned in previous comments. I tried to lose my accent because of the negative connotations, which I know will disappoint the 'salt of the earth' folk who are proud of their Midlands heritage. However I still have that singy-songy thing going on and when I'm on the phone to customers they often ask where I'm based!! The Dolly Allen style of speaking really does belong to my Grandparents generation. Me and my hubby often turn to the subject on the Black Country accent and how the different towns also have variances. Just one example, I never have said SID for saw as my Tipton fella did . I'm from Willenhall and we said SIN. ( as in ' arr, I sin 'im in the pub') I still add extra W's to certain words e.g school is schoowel and pound is powund. This seems - to me anyway- fairly unique to Willenhall/Walsall. I have noticed that people from Bloxwich,where I work , have a different way of pronouncing the letter I in certain words. Shirt becomes something like 'shairt' and girl is 'gairl'

Kezza 9 months ago

Dolly Allen ... Like listening to my Nans.

Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna Jones 9 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Clean Cook Lily, yes, I've noticed that too! I think we get that all over the country that from one town to another there are slight differences and slang variations as well as dialect. I remember an American friend being amazed how different our dialect was from the next town (only 7 miles away). I read somewhere that it stems from the days when we lived in smaller closer communities, and it would help us recognise where a person was from to help us judge if they were a friend or foe! It'll come in useful still on a football day when Blues and Baggies supporters are about in town!

Chris 9 months ago

I really enjoyed the comments and as a boy from Tipton and then working all over the Blackcountry I could spot the differences so much so that I could tell with reasonable acuracy where someone was from such as the subtle differences between Dudley and Brierley Hill. My father used thee and thou (thar) in his speech and also cosn't (can't). Example: Thar cosn't dew that yowl bost it. He also used, fode. This was the paved area between houses and something which always made me langh was when he said to us kids; stop ballyerkin yome loik a gleed unda the dooa.

zoetropo 4 months ago

Pronouncing "rat" as "rot" is a feature of Dutch (Nederlands), hence the island off Western Australia named "Rottnest".

The regularisation of the past tense suggests a non-Germanic influence: German (Deutsch) says "ich gibt" for "I give" but "ich gab" for "I gave". Perhaps the local Welsh, not knowing the intricacies of Germanic speech, had a say in this aspect of Mercian grammar?

Eadric the Wild's epithet is a Brythonic word that has passed into English. His rebellion against William I united Welsh and Mercian men, who continued to fight after Eadric fled, culminating in the Battle of Stafford.

Towns named "Walton" and "Walpole" dot northern Cambridgeshire. It is a curious fact that my ancestors from that shire regard themselves not as descendants of the Angles, but as cultural kin to the Welsh.

dave 3 months ago

The only problem is Wolverhampton is NOT part of the black country and never has been. Got on the bandwagon when the black country became better know. And grants where being handed out.

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