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What about the distinctive Birmingham accent? It has long been judged badly with its speakers suffering from bias, but it has deep historical roots and is now being given a boost by the Commonwealth Games
This month’s newsletter is courtesy of inews-lifestyle and as Birmingham is hosting the amazing Commonwealth Games, I thought it very appropriate to shine a light on the Birmingham accent. I hope you enjoy the feature!

It has been voted the funniest accent in the UK. More cruelly it has also topped surveys as the least trustworthy, the least attractive and the least cool of all British accents over the years. Now Birmingham’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games is providing a chance for the city to finally win more respect for the Brummie burr.

Residents hope people from other British regions will begin to hear the beauty of their voices through greater exposure to them during media coverage of the events, and maybe even picking up some of the dialect along the way to learn why it’s bostin’ (brilliant).

Local voices will be heard loud and proud in the opening ceremony being held at the Alexander Stadium on Thursday night and throughout the events. Theatre director Iqbal Khan, the 2022 ceremony’s artistic director, has revealed that Birmingham-born TV presenter Alison Hammond has voiced all the public service announcements at the sporting venues. “You will hear this wonderful accent wherever you go in the Games,” he said. The novelist Maeve Clarke, another member of the creative team, says the accent is “part of who we are”.

The Games will amplify it globally in a way that perhaps only the BBC drama Peaky Blinders and the Black Sabbath singer turned reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne have managed in recent years. Many viewers around the world, from Anguilla to Zambia, will be listening to the Birmingham accent for the first time.
This way of speaking has endured ever since Birmingham was a Saxon market town. In 2011, a research project began comparing the West Midlands accents and dialects of this century to a medieval text and found links dating back 800 years. Analysing the Vernon Manuscript – the largest surviving late-medieval English text, written in the West Midlands dialect in around 1400 – they recognised that the typical local pronunciation of “you” may originate from the Middle English word “ow”.

We don’t know what people from elsewhere in England, living under the reign of King John, would have thought of the local accent and dialect, but it has unfortunately long been mocked.

In 1960 it was voted bottom for “prestige and pleasantness” in an academic study of British people’s attitudes to 16 different accents. It came last out of 34 accents in a 2004 survey and completed an unfortunate hat trick in 2020, when respondents to the Accent Bias in Britain gave it the lowest rating.
“Historically, it has got this stigma, and yet it’s associated with some of the oldest languages that have been spoken,” says Dr Brian Dakin, who studies accents and dialects as Visiting Research Associate at Aston University – and hosts shows on Black Country Radio as Billy Spakemon.

A few years ago Dakin and his colleagues interviewed local writers, comedians and songwriters to find out “if they felt their use of the language was detrimental to them progressing”. The depth of “negative attitudes towards Birmingham and Black Country people in terms of intelligence and their place in society” was very apparent, he says.

Dakin grew up outside the city and has a Black Country accent rather than a Birmingham one, though he realises they sound very similar to outsiders. “We’re bottom of the pile,” he says, believing this is partly because people in the West Midlands are too humble about themselves and where they come from. “We don’t big ourselves up, it’s to the detriment of our city.”

Happily, he thinks this is starting to change. In a region where cultural identity centred for so long around pride in the strength of local industry, the closure of so many factories in recent years means people are now “reclaiming an identity through voice. It’s the most important thing we’ve got now as Brummies – let’s use it and let’s celebrate it”.

Decoding the Birmingham dialect
“Never in a rain of pigs pudding” – Something will never happen
“It’s a bit black over Bill’s mother’s” – The sky is dark and it may rain
“Ta-ra a bit” – Goodbye for now, see you later
“You’ll ‘ave it dark” – Someone is doing a task so slowly that it will be night by the time they have finished
“You’ve got a face as long as Livery Street” – You’re looking miserable
Source: BirminghamLive

While critics say the accent is too slow and lazy, lacking colour, Dakin argues that “it’s a very mellow way of talking and it’s incredibly warm”. He says: “With the advent of Peaky Blinders, people have become more aware that it’s an accent worth listening to.” While the voices heard on the show are not always perfect, he says, the drama has still done a “massive amount” for the Birmingham accent, in the same way that the drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet boosted the Geordie accent for the people of Newcastle in the 80s.

“The Commonwealth Games is about acknowledging we’ve got a voice, the same as everybody else. It’s like, ‘Somebody has noticed us, let’s make the most of it’, and voices are such an important part of that.”
If you’re looking to boost your accent, smooth your accent, go a bit more neutral or develop a new one – do get in touch for a chat!