|Native to||United Kingdom|
|3.7 million people in metro Birmingham (2014)|
The Brummie dialect, or more formally the Birmingham dialect, is spoken by many people in Birmingham, England and some of its surrounding areas. It is also a demonym for people from Birmingham. It is often erroneously used in referring to all accents of the West Midlands, as it is markedly distinct from the traditional accent of the adjacent Black Country but modern-day population mobility has tended to blur the distinction. For instance, Dudley-born comedian Lenny Henry, Walsall-born rock musician Noddy Holder, Smethwick-reared actress Julie Walters, Wollaston-born soap actress Jan Pearson and West Bromwich-born comedian Frank Skinner, are sometimes mistaken for Brummie-speakers by people outside the West Midlands county.
Additionally, population mobility has meant that to a degree, the Brummie accent extends into some parts of the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, but much of the accent within the borough might be considered to be closer to contemporary RP. For example, Solihull-born presenter Richard Hammond (despite often being referred to as a Brummie) does not speak with a strong Brummie accent but is identifiably from the West Midlands.
The Brummie accent and the Coventry accent are also quite distinct in their differences, despite only 19 miles (31 km) separating the cities. To the untrained ear, however, all of these accents may sound very similar, just as British English speakers may find it hard to distinguish between different North American accents or Australian and New Zealand accents.
The term Brummie derives from Brummagem or Bromwichham, which are historical variants of the name Birmingham.
The strength of a person's accent varies greatly all across Birmingham. Like most cities, the accent changes relative to the area of the city. A common misconception is that everyone in Birmingham speaks the same accent. It could be argued Brummie is an accent rather than a dialect as in Black Country, which is a dialect with unique words and phrases, as in owamya? for how are you, which many comment is not used in Brummie speech. Similarly Brummies pronounce I as 'oy' whereas Black Country uses the dialect 'Ah' as in 'Ah bin' meaning I have been.
Thorne (2003) has said that the accent is "a dialectal hybrid of northern, southern, Midlands, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire speech", also with elements from the languages and dialects of its Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities.
There are also differences between Brummie and Black Country accents, which are not readily apparent to people from outside the West Midlands. A Black Country accent and a Birmingham accent can be hard to distinguish if neither accent is that broad. Phonetician John Wells has admitted that he cannot tell any difference between the accents.
Rhymes and vocabulary in the works of William Shakespeare suggest that he used a local dialect, with many historians and scholars arguing that Shakespeare used a Stratford-upon-Avon, Brummie, Cotswald, Warwickshire or other Midlands dialect in his work. However, the veracity of this assertion is not accepted by all historians.
According to Thorne (2003), among UK listeners "Birmingham English in previous academic studies and opinion polls consistently fares as the most disfavoured variety of British English, yet with no satisfying account of the dislike". He alleges that overseas visitors in contrast find it "lilting and melodious", and from this claims that such dislike is driven by various linguistic myths and social factors peculiar to the UK ("social snobbery, negative media stereotyping, the poor public image of the City of Birmingham, and the north/south geographical and linguistic divide").
For instance, despite the city's cultural and innovative history, its industrial background (as depicted by the arm-and-hammer in Birmingham's coat of arms) has led to a muscular and unintelligent stereotype: a "Brummagem screwdriver" is UK slang for a hammer.
Thorne also cites the mass media and entertainment industry where actors, usually non-Birmingham, have used inaccurate accents and/or portrayed negative roles.
Advertisements are another medium where many perceive stereotypes. Journalist Lydia Stockdale, writing in the Birmingham Post, commented on advertisers' association of Birmingham accents with pigs: the pig in the ad for Colman's Potato Bakes, Nick Park's Hells Angel Pigs for British Gas and ITV's "Dave the window-cleaner pig" all had Brummie accents. In 2003, a Halifax bank advertisement featuring Howard Brown, a Birmingham- born and based employee, was replaced by an animated version with an exaggerated comical accent overdubbed by a Cockney actor.
Urszula Clark has proposed the FACE vowel as a difference between Birmingham and Black Country pronunciation, with Birmingham speakers' using /ʌɪ/ and Black Country speakers' using /æɪ/. She also mentions that Black Country speakers are more likely to use /ɪʊ/ where most other accents use /juː/ (in words such as new, Hugh, stew, etc.). This /ɪʊ/ is also present in some North American dialects for words like eww, grew, new due, etc., contrasting with /u/ (words like boo, zoo, to, too, moon, dune etc.). Other North American dialects may use /ju/ for this purpose, or even make no distinction at all.
Below are some common features of a recognisable Brummie accent (a given speaker may not necessarily use all, or use a feature consistently). The letters enclosed in square brackets –  – use the International Phonetic Alphabet. The corresponding example words in italics are spelt so that a reader using Received Pronunciation (RP) can approximate the sounds.
According to the PhD thesis of Steve Thorne at the University of Birmingham Department of English, Birmingham English is "a dialectal hybrid of northern, southern, Midlands, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire speech", also with elements from the languages and dialects of its Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities.
Examples of speakers include TV presenter Adrian Chiles, comedian Jasper Carrott, Goodies actor and TV presenter Bill Oddie, hip-hop and garage musician Mike Skinner, rock musicians Ozzy Osbourne (and all other members of the original Black Sabbath), Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne (ELO founders), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Barney Greenway (Napalm Death), Dave Pegg (of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull), broadcaster Les Ross, politician Clare Short, SAS soldier and author John "Brummie" Stokes, and many actresses and actors including Martha Howe-Douglas, Donnaleigh Bailey, Nicolas Woodman, Sarah Smart, John Oliver and Ryan Cartwright.
I have a terrible confession to make. I can’t reliably distinguish between a Birmingham accent (“Brummie”) and a Black Country accent. Sorry, but that’s the truth.