I’m not ashamed, I’m Black country and I’m proud

What and where is the Black Country? What’s so special about the Black Country dialect? Why all the negative press? What do people, Black Country folk or not, really think?

What and where is the Black Country? What’s so special about the Black Country dialect? Why all the negative press? What do people, Black Country folk or not, really think?

I’m from Bilston, a traditional Black Country town, and after living away from home I’ve received more than enough attention over the way I talk. Some people love it, others hate it, many laugh at it and or, more than likely, most don’t understand it. So I wanted to find out more…

So, where is the Black Country?

Tour guide for London, the heart of England and the South West, Ian Jelf, said: ‘One of the biggest headaches in talking about the ‘Black Country’ is that there’s no agreement about what it encompasses.’ @ianjelf

Today, the Black Country is considered as a single conurbation with no centre. This area is said to lie to the north and west of Birmingham (but does not include) and to the south and east of Wolverhampton. It falls under the administration of the four local authorities of Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Walsall.

Traditionally, parts of Wolverhampton are not part of the Black Country but places like Bilston (now part of Wolverhampton) and Coseley (now divided between Dudley and Wolverhampton) are known Black Country towns.

Why is it called the Black Country?

Common belief has it that the expression derived from the mid-nineteenth century because of the pollution created by industry. There were few places more polluted in the world, leaving the area covered in black soot. Apparently, Queen Victoria ordered her blinds to be lowered on her royal train carriage as she passed through the blackness.

Today, it is believed that the name existed before the industrial revolution where outcroppings which followed the South Staffordshire coal seam rendered the soil black. This confirms that parts of Walsall, Wolverhampton and Stourbridge are not part of the Black Country.

What’s so special about the Black Country dialect?

Shadow Europe Minister and Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East, Emma Reynolds said: ‘Black Country accent is not homogenous. W’ton accent very different to Dudley/Walsall etc. Charming, distinctive & friendly.’ @EmmaReynoldsMP

Black Country people fiercely defend the difference of the accent and dialect used across the area, although outsiders can rarely tell.

To the north and east of the Black Country, Tipton, Wednesbury and Bilston, the speech is harder while to the south and west, Wordsley, Brierley Hill and Cradley Heath, it has much more of a softer ‘sing-song’ quality to it.

Walsall blogger, The Mushroom, said: ‘It’s not just an accent with older people its almost a dialect.’ @themushroom

The traditional Black Country dialect preserves many archaic traits of Early Modern English and even Middle English.

‘Probably most Anglo Saxon Germanic of all English regional accents: bin, bist, -en.’ @ianjelf

Let’s have a few examples:

One of the most famous features is the ‘yam yam’ sound created when saying ‘you are’ is pronounced ‘yo’am’ and ‘are you’ is pronounced ‘am ya’. Further, Black Country speech tends to split syllables: thus ‘four’ becomes ‘fawah’ and ‘sure’ become ‘shoo-wah’.

The use of ‘ar’ where other parts of England use ‘yes’; ‘I haven’t seen her’ becomes ‘I ay sid ‘er’; ‘It isn’t’ becomes ‘It ay’; ‘baby’ becomes ‘babby’; ‘very good’ becomes ‘bostin’; really drunk becomes ‘kaylied’- to name very few.

Here’s Black Country dialect in action, thanks to YamYamBloke: ‘Ar tweet ow ar tork me wench. Sum paypul dow undastond it but a lot do. We shud be prowad of ow we spayk an were we cum from.’ @YamYamBloke

The Black Country Dialect video (thanks to Black Country Teeshirts):

No, definitely not a Brummie…

YamYamBloke’s got something to say about this: ‘Ar dow spayk loike a Brummie cuz I ay a Brummie am I? Yow wudunt expekt a Livapudleyan ta spayk loike a Mancueneean wud ya?’ @YamYamBloke

Black Country people proudly resist links to people living in Birmingham and vice versa. Brummies often refer to their Black Country neighbours as ‘Yam Yam’s’- due to their use of ‘yow am’. Black Country folk are proud of their unique dialect and accent.

So why all the negative press?

Stephen Pitts, of The Original Black Country T-Shirt Shop, said:

‘The attention is mainly a media thing, the media being based in the more affluent parts of the country.

‘The Black Country, due to it’s industry, has always been a working class society in comparision to others. The lower wages & material living standards automatically put people in a lower view of those who have the wealth, throughout the country, throughout the ages and even within families.

‘Maybe the Black Country tone doesn’t hit the naturally right notes that people like. It could be why the similar sounding people win the X Factor each year & why we have the musical note system. The Black Country voice is just not in the right pitch for some.’

However, perception changed a little in 2008, due to this YouTube video, The Black Country Alphabet:

Let’s get some more thoughts…

Mayor of Wolverhampton, Bert Turner, said: ‘There’s nothing to be ashamed of, I’ve never changed my accent. Everybody should be be proud of where they’re from.’ @WolvesMayor

Brighton Journalist, Sarah Booker, said: ‘ A quarter of my family are from the Black Country, so I love the accent.’ @Sarah_Booker

Adopted Black Country resident, Helen Howard, said: ‘Well its my adopted but my partner is fiercely proud of his black country history & accent.’ @yamyamlen

Student, Oliver Miles, said: ‘I’m happy to have dropped a lot of my accent, people don’t take me seriously when giving presentations…’ @dumbleberry

YamYam Barmayid, said: ‘Are think theyis duyalekts shud be protektid. Paypul mewuv abowt sucha lot aksents can get lost.’ @YamYamBarmayid

Tourist Guide, Ian Jelf, said: ‘BC has huge thing its favour: you’ll go a long way before you find people more friendly, welcoming and more down-to-earth.’ @ianjelf

Walsall news blog,, said: ‘Black Country folk are often embarrassed by their accent but when pressed they are actually very proud.

‘Whilst initially nervous of reaction, naming the Black Country news and blog site, the ‘YamYam’ struck a real chord with people and has been key to its success.’ @TheYamYam