We deviate from our standard schedule of Toddler, Assorted Animals and Two Uteri in order to bring you…

How to Speak Brummie!

The fabulous and talented Laura was puzzled by yesterday’s reference to my alleged Brummie outlook. I have previously tried to explain to visitors to this shore the huge disparity between BBC English (received pronunciation) and all the UK’s regional accents. I personally find thick Scottish accents nearly impenetrable, and was obliged to watch Rab C Nesbitt with the subtitles on.

My parents were both born and brought up in Birmingham, the UK’s second city. They moved to South Warwickshire when I was 18 months old, but both still retain traces of a Brummie accent – as do I. My mother’s family were, in fact, Yam Yams, and I can murder the pronunciation of ‘money’ as ‘mon-ayy’with the best of them.

The key feature of a Brummie accent is a monotone, with a downwards intonation on the end of sentences. The accent is heavily stereotyped: the sound – and therefore the disposition of the natives, also – is widely considered depressing and, of all the UK regional accents, the most associated with low intelligence!

Have a try:

Berminggum is wun uv the Larges citays in the u-nyted kingdem. It is pRRobebLay moest faymus fer the buLLRRingg und spegettee jungshun, but ittas eLo mor to offa. The nashnel eksibishun senta is a gRRayt sawss uv pRRoid te the lowkel in-abitents und steps av bin tayken in RResunt yeers to impRRoov the appeeRents uv the citay.

(Woody is Brummie. Buzz, Potato Head & the dinosaur are Geordie [North-East England] and the dog is Cockney [London])

(Jasper’s accent isn’t a particularly strong one. My Dad sounds rather like him).

12 Responses

  1. Brummie I can handle. Broad Glasweigan – not a chance. Geordies I used to have a problem with too. I once was on a plane back from Munich with a load of what I thought were Germans – nope Geordies I just couldn’t understand them. (I also shared that plane with Bros (the band for those of less advanced years) which at the time was very exciting).

  2. I never struggled with the Brummie but sometimes the really strong west country accents would slay me. And I agree with Betty that the Glasweigan accent is a killer. Although I’m always very confused as to what I sound like when people ask if my Canadian accent is Australian?!?!?

  3. I went to University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, and it took me a fair old while to get a handle on Geordie. Similarly, after spending two months in Canada, I found that the accent was as distinct from that of the northern US as chalk from cheese – but I’m not at all sure I could pick up the difference now, as it’s been a long-ish while.

    My best mate had a Thing for Bros. I was horrified then & I’m horrified now!

  4. When I worked in Wolverhampton I was told to pronounce ‘cup of tea’ as ‘kipper tie’. Near enough to Brum.

  5. I didn’t even live in Blighty until I was twelve, and then I was isolated in a special enclave for Posh People. All my accent jokes are Italian. Nobody gets them but me. I sigh.

    I’ve cracked Glaswegian, through epic enforced Rab C. Nesbitt watching. Geordies always sound so CROSS, so I daren’t admit I can’t understand a word, in case they really ARE cross.

  6. Also, Bros? I shared a dorm with a girl who fastened bottle-caps to her shoe-laces. Because Bros did. The shame. Luke Goss makes a reasonably amusing pissed-off fairy prince, though. Ha ha.

  7. Both illuminated and bewildered over here in the land of Everyone Has the Same Damned Accent Although the Country Is Three Thousand Miles Wide. (I was raised in DC, my husband in San Francisco, yet we sound like next-door neighbors.)

    I need to think up more questions for you. Your primers are delightful.

  8. Next – the difference between Brummy and CoventrAY.

    There ARE regional accents in the US. You just never, ever hear them on the national media. Middle-class English people generally also sound the same regardless of region.

  9. I like the US southern accents hugely. And hearing my BIL speak Warwickshire dialect in a Kentucky accent is priceless!

  10. Ugh, Southern (US) accents. Being from Maine, the accent here in Texas is like fingernails on a chalkboard!! Laura’s right, though, DCers and San Franciscans really don’t have an accent to speak of.

    Thanks for the Brummie tutorial…interesting how many dialects you have in a relatively small geographical space!

  11. Yes, yes – it was both horrifying & hilarious when all of P’s family wanted to hear my Texas twang! (wait a minute, I don’t twang THAT badly, do I??!!??)
    There are still times when I stare blankly at Hubby when he has mumbled something in his soft Cornish accent – repetese, por favor!

  12. I do struggle with Scottish accents immensely, and want to apologise in advance to the Scottish people I deal with through work because I just stare at them blankly. I cannot stand a thick Brummie accent, nor can any non-Brummie I know. I want to kick that Big Brother voiceover guy in his stupid face whenever he is on TV, and I don’t even watch the bloody show.

    All that said, the accent from around here isn’t anything to be proud of either!

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