Brummie slang of my youth

by Tom Albrighton 8 November 2010 Fun

‘Deck him, Faz.’

When I overheard those words in the dinner queue on my first day at Bournville School, I truly knew I had arrived in another country. That summer (1980), we’d moved from Norwich to Birmingham, uprooting me from a sleepy cathedral city (to which I’d later return) and pitching me into a bustling multicultural conurbation.

Over the next few months, I had to get up to speed with the playground lingo – fast. To save you the trouble if you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s a brief guide to the second language of the second city.

Ace adj. Excellent; bosting. Not confined to Birmingham, but used incessantly when I was at school there. The wonderful Brummie accent renders this word closer to the way southerners say ‘ice’.

All right A standard greeting, often delivered more as a statement than a question (‘All right, Tom.’). The correct response is ‘all right’. It is not necessary to give any information concerning your welfare.

Austin, The n. The former Austin Rover/British Leyland plant at Longbridge, later MG Rover and currently being completely redeveloped. You often heard of people who worked ‘up the Austin’, before they all got laid off. I think people might also have said ‘The Rover’.

Babby, bab n. Literally, a baby. Figuratively, ‘bab’ is a term of endearment or friendship; combine with ‘all right‘ to give the greeting ‘All right, bab’. If you’re a barmaid, dinner lady or similar, you can get away with using it on strangers. Near-equivalent to ‘duck’ in the East Midlands, ‘luv’ in the north, ‘darlin’ in the south and ‘hen’ in Scotland.

Back of Rackhams n. A mythical red-light district. Rackhams is a large department store in Birmingham city centre, now owned by House of Fraser. To ‘go round the back of Rackhams’ meant to work as a prostitute.

Banjo vt. To strike someone, probably in the face. ‘He was asking for a smack so I banjoed him in the gob.’ Possibly related to ‘banjax’?

Batter vt. To beat soundly in a scrap. Also used hyperbolically for any sort of skirmish, however minor.

Benny n. A simpleton, like Benny out of Crossroads. Paul Henry, who played Benny, apparently lived near us, but I never saw him shopping at the Grosvenor Centre. Probably one of those playground myths.

Blart vi. To cry.

Bobowler n. A large moth.

Bomb vi. To travel quickly, usually on wheels (e.g. a bike or skateboard). ‘Let’s bomb down the outdoor for some rocks.’ (Note that ‘to’ is often omitted from phrases such as ‘down to’ or ‘up to’ when speaking of travel.)

Borrow vt. To lend. ‘Can you borrow us 10p for the buzz?’ In the early 1980s, you could ride anywhere in Birmingham for 10p during off-peak hours. The lowest fare was 2p, which I remember people asking for by saying ‘One stop please, driver’.

Bosting adj. Very good; smashing. ‘Bost’ is Black Country slang for ‘break’ (‘bust’), but I only ever heard this metaphorical usage; people never talked about ‘bosting a window’. Invariably pronounced ‘bostin’.

Brassings n. pl. Like gruffings, this taunt indicated that your interlocutor had been proved wrong somehow. Accompanied by a twisting finger applied to the side of the neck, and sometimes a ‘tsss!’ noise, like water falling onto a hotplate. Possibly derived from ‘brass neck’ somehow?

Buzz n. Bus. The ‘s’ was always pronounced ‘zz’.  Note also that the ‘u’ sounds like the vowel in ‘foot’.

A Wumpty buzz, back in the day

Chobble vt. To loudly and prematurely crunch a foodstuff, probably confectionery, with the teeth. ‘Don’t chobble yer rocks!’

Cob n. A bread roll, but not only in the Midlands. Also, to ‘get a cob on’ is to go into a huff or become mardy.

Cop vt. To apprehend. Almost always used in the passive voice, e.g. ‘They got copped dossing about in L21 during break’.

Crash vt. To distribute generously. Hence ‘Crash the rocks!’ – an invitation or instruction to hand out your sweets to those present, or ‘crash the ash’ if you’d graduated to cigarettes.

Crip n. A potato crisp (US: potato chip). For some reason, it was customary to omit the ‘s’.

Damo n. Pronounced ‘day-mo’. A pupil of Dame Elizabeth Cadbury, the nearest comprehensive to Bournville and therefore its de facto rival. We were always hearing about, but never witnessing, scraps between kids from the two schools.

Deck n., vt. As a transitive verb, to knock someone to the floor. As a noun, the floor or the ground – hence our PE teachers telling us to ‘put the pill on the deck’ to score a try. (Bournville was a rugby, not a football, school.)

Deff vt. To decide against, not bother with or opt out of. ‘Let’s get some rocks!’ ‘Nah, deff it man.’

Doss vi, n. As a verb, it means to mess about and/or waste time. ‘They spent all of General Studies dossing around in the library.’ As a noun, it denotes an opportunity for, or specific instance of, dossing. ‘General Studies is a total doss.’

Fizzy pop n. A carbonated soft drink, e.g. lemonade or Coke. The ‘fizzy’ was to differentiate it from simple ‘pop’, which denoted fruit squash.

Gambol n. A forward roll. A usage sufficiently well established to be deployed by our PE teachers.

Good kid n. A sort of juvenile equivalent to compliments like ‘good bloke’ or ‘decent chap’, but with a slight undertone of Top Trumps-style comparison. Needless to say, the ‘kid’ was always male. I don’t know how, or whether, the girls evaluated each other.

Gopping adj. Synonym for bosting.

Gruffings n. pl. As a taunt or exclamation, ‘gruffings’ indicated that your interlocutor had been shown to be wrong, ignorant or inferior in some way. It was normally accompanied by a chin-stroking hand gesture on the thrust-forward lower jaw, evoking the beard of a billy-goat gruff. See also Brassings.

Hard knock n. A tough person, badass. The stress falls on ‘hard’.

Island n. A roundabout – on the road, rather than in the playground.

Jacksy adj. Lucky. Elsewhere in the UK it’s a synonym for ‘arse’, but not in Brum. ‘You got out of PE? You jacksy bastard!’

Jasper n. A wasp.

Kalas, The n. An area of tussocky grassland near the Kalamazoo premises in Longbridge. Boys went ‘down the Kalas’ to ride their bikes off-road.

Lamp vt. To banjo, i.e. punch someone. I don’t think this is Birmingham-only.

Leg vi, vt. As an intransitive verb, to flee: ‘leg it!’ As a transitive verb, to pursue vigorously: ‘leg him!’

Mardy adj. Sulky, peevish or irritable. (Not exclusive to Birmingham.)

Marlies n. Glass marbles.

On a line To be ‘on a line’ with somebody is to be exasperated or fed up with them – to have a cob on, in fact. ‘Your mum’s on a line with you.’

Outdoor n. An off-licence (US: liquor store). None of these near my school though – the Cadburys, staunch Quakers, forbade alcohol to be sold anywhere in Bournville, a rule still upheld today.

Pearl & Dean bashings n. pl. This ritual probably wasn’t observed beyond my immediate circle of friends, but you never know. Before a group visit to the cinema, one of the party would be nominated (unbeknownst to them) as the recipient of the bashing. When the Pearl & Dean music came on, everyone else would pummel them. Optional extras included punching in time with the music, singing along (‘ba-ba, ba-ba, ba-ba, ba-ba, ba-ba-ba’) and shouting ‘Pearl & Dean bashings!’

Peg vi. Synonym for leg, as in ‘peg it!’ However, this could not be a transitive verb, i.e. you could not ‘peg’ someone one in the the same way as you could ‘leg’ them.

Penguin n. Old-style overhead projector, with a flat glass screen for transparencies and a refracting prism above it on a metal rod. Probably not just Birmingham.

Piece n. A slice of bread and butter. Something to accompany your scraps, perhaps.

Pill n. A ball, especially a rugby ball.

Podge vi. To push in (US: cut) when queueing. ‘Miss, she’s podged in front of me!’

Pumps n. Plimsolls.

Red sauce n. Tomato ketchup. A determinedly literal extension from ‘brown sauce’ (HP or maybe Daddies’ Sauce). Incidentally, HP Sauce was made at a plant in Aston until it was demolished in 2006. You could see it from the A38 while en route to Spaghetti Junction.

Rock n. Confectionery item, hence ‘rocks’ meaning sweets. Normally applied to individual sweets such as Polos rather than bars such as Twix.

Round the Wrekin To ‘go all round the Wrekin’ is to take the long way round to a destination. The Wrekin is a prominent hill near Telford in Shropshire, so going round it would be a serious detour if you were going to, say, the swimming baths in Stirchley.

Scramble vt. To crash your rocks by throwing them into the air in the classroom or playground. Only really worked with wrapped sweets, e.g. Opal Fruits. Accompanying shout of ‘Scramble!’ optional.

Scrap n. A fight, usually one-on-one. At school, the slightest physical altercation would instantly result in the combatants being surrounded by a ring of excited onlookers chanting ‘Scrap! Scrap! Scrap!’

Scraps n. pl. The little particles of potato and batter scraped out of the fryer in a chip shop. Elsewhere called ‘crispy bits’, I think.

Sixties n. pl. The buzzes numbered 61, 62 and 63, which connected south-west Birmingham to the city centre via the Bristol Road. (And probably still do.)

Skill adj. Excellent, superlative. Often used as an exclamation: ‘Ah, skill!’

Solid adj. Unusually difficult or challenging. ‘Physics is solid, man.’

Soz Short for ‘sorry’. Usually used in the formation ‘Soz, mate’.

Start vi. To fight. To ‘start on’ someone was to attack them. Boys squaring up would incite each other by saying ‘Come on then, start!’ – usually for about ten minutes, without any blow being struck, until a teacher arrived.

Stinger n. Stinging nettle. Pronounced with hard ‘g’.

Stick prep. Versus. For example, a playground game might be convened with ‘It’s boys stick girls’.

Tara a bit! ‘Bye for now’ or ‘see you later’.

Terrapin n. A mobile, prefabricated building used as a classroom. There were none at Bournville, but two at St Laurence Juniors, which I attended very briefly. In fact, I met my (still) best mate in one on my very first day. Although I didn’t know it at the time, ‘Terrapin’ is a brand name that became a noun.

Tig n. The children’s game known elsewhere as ‘tag’.

Wag it vi. To play truant.

Wumpty n. West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive, or WMPTE – i.e. the Birmingham buzz operator.

July 2013 update

This post has suddenly gone viral on Facebook, thanks partly to being shared by Miles Hunt and Fuzz Townsend (Google them, kids). Since so many people suggested new entries, I’ve decided to add them into the main post, whether or not I remembered them myself, along with a few others that have come back to me. So this is now more of a compilation, not just my own memories. Thanks to everyone who commented.

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  • http://www.unmemorabletitle.co.uk Andy Nattan

    Cob’s used in old Salfordian parlance too, although it’s been replaced by the Mancunian “barm”.

    I say old, I’ve never heard anyone under 90 say it…

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  • http://www.marketcopywriterblog.com Lorraine

    Thanks for sharing this, Tom. Every one is a gem, but I’m especially fond of “rock” for candy,”jacksy,” “mardy” and “doss.” Only wish I could credibly pull off using these words.

    Your list puts my 1970s California-ese to shame. Besides, most of the surfer-slacker lingo used on the west coast back in the day is now common parlance: “dude,” “gnarly,” “rocks” as in “This Neil Young song rocks” and “freaking,” i.e., “very.”

  • http://nexus-copywriting.co.uk David K

    Takes me back, Tom. I also remember boff – vi. To emit intestinal gas from lower sphincter. n. The resulting emission.

    Specifically Brum/Midlands? I’ve never heard it in the sarf.

    The most desirable of these was the SBD*, though I’m sure that’s not Brum-specific.

    *Silent But Deadly

    I do hope I haven’t lowered the tone…

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  • http://sarra.tumblr.com/ sarra

    On ‘bost’:
    I’ve bost my ankle
    Our telly’s bost
    They’ve all bost up the road doing the gas

    ‘Bosted’ is an acceptable alternative to distinguish the adjective from the past participle – so bost (pp), bosted (adj). ‘ed’ is ‘id’ of course to the ear.

    I have a sneaking feeling bosted might also mean something else, but it’s not springing to mind. Instead I’ve just realised that ‘bostin’ is quite possibly analogous to ‘smashing’ – of course!

    On ‘pronounced with hard “g”‘, this is absolutely standard for the dialect(s), so ‘sin-ging’, ‘ban-ging’ etc. This counts for all ‘ng’ clusters, hence the usual spellings of ‘bostin’ (no g, otherwise it’d be read ‘bostin-g’, which I automatically did so it made me laugh!) etc. Not sure about ‘brassings’ regarding pronunciation – we didn’t have it! Bit later in the 80s. So wouldn’t know whether or not to suggest ‘brassins’ instead.

    Linguistic onslaught, sorry. But you showed me some I didn’t know were local (I got into scraps all the time) and reminded me about ’roundthebackoRackhams’! Lovely stuff.

  • Daz

    What about Jasper? A Wasp. These do tek me back a bit. oh aar and Round the wrekin, to go the long way round

  • J Edwards

    OMG! A lot of these words are what i used to use lol I still call a cob a cob and im under 90! I moved to Northumberland 2 years ago and they didn’t know what a cob was! hehehe…

    I also use bostin, rocks, back o rackhams, scraps (for fighting), scramble, tig etc

    love it man, love it. I really enjoyed reading this page – it really did bring a smile to my face as i could hear all me mates talking when we were younger. Bostin man, well done! xx

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/blog Tom Albrighton

    Hi J, glad you liked it! I had fun writing it too…

  • Des

    This is bostin’ man. I never realised the word “cob” was only a Brummie word, I’ve used it all my life. Also, this list explains why my wife (from Kettering) didn’t realise when I was talking about pumps. I always wondered what plimsolls were.

  • Anthony

    Nice list! I found it when I googled ‘crash the rocks’ and this was 4 results down under stories about oil spills and chipmunks!

    -Pumps
    -Cob
    -Gambol

    Those I never knew were just what we said!

    I also say ‘Ace’ loads! Haha! Nice work! :D

  • Rabba Shanks

    Great list! Another couple I remember from school were “peg it” meaning to do a runner, and “lamp ‘im” meaning to punch someone – anyone else use those?

  • Keith

    Love it!

    Try….. Wik – Week,

    Banjo’d – “He was asking for a smack so I banjo’d him in the gob (slap felt like I was hit with a banjo).

    Trappin – bored so I’m trappin home.

    Spanner – “Dave got copped, the spanner!”

    Copped – got caught

    And yer Mom – If someone was slagging you no matter what was said you just replied “And yer Mom” which usually led to someone getting banjo’d

    And if you think Brummie slang is good, check out the Yam Yam’s and Yo Yo’s! (Black Country)

    We are totally different breeds and I truly believe that the greatest mix of accents are found in our county.

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/blog Tom Albrighton

    @ Rabba

    Yes, we said ‘peg it’. I don’t know how you decided whether you were going to ‘leg it’ or ‘peg it’. Also, you can’t ‘peg’ someone the same way you can ‘leg’ (chase) them.

    @ Keith

    I’ve never heard ‘banjo’, that is excellent. We said ‘copped’ all the time though, don’t know how I missed that one.

  • Joe

    I live in brum n half those words ent used no more but I hav heared some adults sayin them.

  • http://url gill fincher

    born in wolverhampton, came to blackpool 40 years ago. have not lost my accent and still use words from when i was a child. am not allowed up here to say wench, but can say bloke, i don’t know why. does anyone else use prem for luncheon meat or was that just my mother in law.

  • Chelsea

    ROAD: way.
    Get out my road : get out my way
    Any road : Anyway

    WREKIN: to go the long way.
    EG taxi man took the piss, drove round the wrekin

    LAMP: beat up.
    “I’m Gunna lamp you!” “lamp him”

    I have lived in brum all my life. Thort I wud add a few more :)

  • Dot

    I remember my mum referring to a grumpy person as having ‘a face as long as Livery Street’ If it looked like rain she’d say, ‘It’s looking black over Bill’s mother’s’.

  • Andrew Malloch

    Another one I get pulled on a lot is ‘tuth’ for tooth, as in, “oh me tuth hurts” – not generally used south or north of the Birmingham area but used in South and Central Wales I believe!?

  • http://brummieslang gill fincher

    andrews tuth reminded me of tung for tongue. what about klondykes for scallops,(that might just be a wolverhampton one though).

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/blog Tom Albrighton

    @gill

    So is that a proper scallop (i.e. a shellfish) or a potato scallop? If we’re in the chippy then I reckon it’s the potato version…

    While we’re there, we might have some ‘red sauce’ (tomato ketchup, by extension from ‘brown sauce’ or HP), which I’ve never heard anywhere else.

  • http://brummieslang gill fincher

    thanks tom great to get a reply. you are right we’re in the chip shop. i still do red and brown sauce. i refuse to change all my words even living in blackpool. even the butcher knows what i mean now, when i ask for bellydraught.
    regards
    gill

  • Ed N

    What about “magic” as in “What was the film like?” “Magic!!!” i.e. same as ace/bostin

  • http://bigrichardc.tumblr.com Richard

    What about pop meaning squash and fizzy pop meaning cheap cola/lemonade?

  • http://birminghammusicarchive.com Jez Collins

    Top list! (is top as in top=great/best) a Brummie word/saying?
    Also Ta ra a bit = goodbye
    Benny as in ‘he’s a right Benny’ = think/simple as in Benny from Crossroads
    You’ve got Bosting (i spell in Bostin) but I think the proper phrase was Bostin Steve Austin
    We used Towie at school so may be confined to just that school as it was name of a teacher, but it was used like brassing, only accompanied by a stroke of our imaginary beard while shouting TOWIE.
    Catch ya later = goodbye and see you soon (again not sure if this is Brum specific?)
    We used to ask for scraps and bits from the chippy, basically free discarded left overs from the chips

  • http://birminghammusicarchive.com Jez Collins

    Ah, just remembered another one

    Cut. As in meet you down the cut = meet you at the canal

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/blog Tom Albrighton

    @ Richard

    Yes, I definitely remember ‘fizzy pop’. Anywhere else in the UK, all ‘pop’ would be fizzy (I think).

    @ Jez

    We never said ‘top’ (Northfield, 1980s) but that doesn’t mean nobody said it. The first I heard of it was when Madchester got big – ‘top one, nice one, get sorted’ etc. When you’ve got ‘ace’ and ‘bosting’, you don’t need many more words for ‘good’.

    ‘Benny’ – definitely, we said that a lot. Interestingly, Paul Henry (who played Benny) allegedly lived in Innage Rd, just round the corner from St Lawrence Junior School, which I attended. I never saw him though.

    ‘Scraps’ – yes, I heard this. I think they are called ‘crispy bits’ in other areas – if people ask for them at all!

    I see you’re blogging about Barbarella’s. I was never much of a rock guy, but I did go to Edward’s No 8 once, on a whim after the pub. We saw one-hit-wonders Gun, of all people.

    Thanks to both of you for reading and commenting. Tara a bit!

  • Rebecca Spencer

    Dont forget “crash the ash” meaning shar ethe ciggies / fags / cigarettes lol

  • Simes

    North Midlands also use many of those terms, I’m from Derbyshire and there are many similarities. In South Derbys bread rolls are cobs, in North Derbys they’re baps or barms (barmcakes). Fascinating glossary.

  • Linda

    Blartin – crying; bonce – head; ‘orse road – road; donnies – hands; tek – take; mek – make; bog – lavatory; yampy – mad, crazy; gooin – going, just a few more.

  • Debbie N

    What about ” on a line ‘ . As in ‘ she’s on a line with yow ” – she’s rather cross with you . Left Bournville in 1979 – lots of good memories

  • JimBham

    We took the MG Metro up the Queensway and absolutely “Thraped” it.

  • jimmiedick

    he missed “giz” to Give me, as in Gizz a sweet

  • Andy Conway

    PIECE – As a northerner arriving in Bham I was pretty puzzled when asked if I wanted ‘a piece’. ‘A piece of what?’ was the reply. It was then explained to me that ‘a piece’ was a slice of bread and butter.

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    You had to hold your breath all the way through the tunnels – great fun on school-trip coaches.

    My mate had a Mini and he got the ton out of it on the M42, which had only just opened in 1988 and was empty. There were four of us in the car. It was like being inside a washing machine.

  • Stormy

    Plenty of these aren’t brum-specific. Ace, All Right, Batter, Bomb, Deck, Doss, Leg, Mardy, Skill, Solid and Start I’ve all heard used repeatedly in Essex, for example. But there definitely is a myriad of terms here that are very Midlands-centric (That’s bosting, bab!)

  • Craiguito

    This is bostin’!

    Also:
    bob ‘owler = a big moth.
    On a line = annoyed

  • Rpp1974

    This is ace, brought back a few memories. It’s a fact that these words are disappearing the day to day life in Birmingham because its not “fashionable” to come from the midlands. Youth would rather talk with northern/southern accent as its more accepted – very disappointing. A person should be proud of their roots.

    Anyway, is dicksplat a brummie word? As in, “he’s a right dicksplat”.

  • Gog68

    Gobby – mouthy

    Waggin it – truancy

    shirker – avoiding work

    roundabout – island

    sorted

  • Mark M

    We used “Gopping” (goppin’) as the opposite to Bostin’.

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    I don’t think any other city gets such a raw deal, culturally speaking, as Birmingham does. For example, look at how few Birmingham voices we hear in the media, and how few dramas are set in the city. Frank Skinner’s atrocious sitcom ‘Blue Heaven’, with non-Midlands actors doing rough Black Country accents, didn’t help.

    When you do hear it, the Brummie accent is usually used as a signifier for ‘stupid’, ‘coarse’ or ‘ignorant’ – as in the Prudential ads featuring Mark Williams (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zOaiaV3ZHw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxzaBIhsZbI).

    When people ask me where I’m ‘from’, I usually say Birmingham, even though I was born in Norwich. Reactions have included disgust, derision and even pity. I can’t think of any other UK city, apart possibly from new towns like Milton Keynes, that inspire such snobbery – and socially acceptable snobbery, too.

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    Fair cop. I’m not a linguist. As the title suggests, this is just a list of words I heard in Brum during the 80s that I’ve rarely heard elsewhere.

  • Pete

    ‘Jasper’ to mean ‘wasp’ is very much East Anglian, so perhaps you weren’t just a passive recipient of local slang. Or is it a copyright trap? ;-)

    Other things I can remember:

    Div(vy): An idiot.

    Yards: Acceptable distance from a free kick. Invariably used as part of the phrase ‘Get yer yards’.

    Entry: The alleyway between terraced houses that facilitated rear access. Distinct from ‘gully’ (linking two roads) or ‘cinderpath’ (Bournville equivalent of ‘gully’).

    Steely: A ‘marly’ made of steel.

    Oily: A ‘steely’ with an oil-like sheen.

    Gobby: A large ‘marly’.

    Emperor: An especially large ‘marly’, even larger than a ‘gobby’.

    Eggy: An off-white, sort of ceramic, ‘marly’.

    Cat’s eye: The most popular type of ‘marly’. Made of glass, containing a coloured leaf-like object.

  • Pete

    Here’s another couple:

    Wrapped (in): To be in love/obsessed with, especially in an unrequited manner. ‘Dave’s well wrapped in Sarah’.

    ‘Rude: To ‘yoof’ these days, it means ‘good’. Back then, it meant ‘bad’ or ‘unfair’. ‘Sarah’s dumped Dave? That’s well rude!’

  • Pete

    OK, here’s some more:

    The (K)Nob: For some inexplicable reason, what everyone called the (now renamed) King’s Head, in-between King’s Heath and The Maypole.

    Dip: A method for determining who was ‘on’ in a playground game such as British Bulldogs. Involved each player placing a hand or foot in a circle and a nominated person tapping each one in order, in time with a ditty they would recite. The owner of the appendage being tapped at the end of the ditty would be eliminated and withdraw their appendage. This would continue until one appendage remained, its owner being ‘on’. A typical infant school ditty would be, ‘Ip dip, sky blue, it is not you.’ By junior school, the process had degenerated into (a) coarser language (b) everyone knowing where you needed to start your dip to eliminate your friends.

  • Pete

    Arlies: Said, accompanied with crossed fingers, when one wanted to temporarily withdraw from a playground game due to a resolvable incapacity such as undone shoelaces. A person in such a state would refer to themselves as ‘on my arlies’. Whether arlies were accepted would depend on one’s opponents, which in turn largely depended on generosity and recent precedent.

  • Guest

    Mufty = no school uniform. “Mufty day”

  • Mat Marlow

    MUFTY = no school uniform. “Mufty Day”

  • Creese

    Brilliant, thanks! I know and use 95% of the phrases on here. I’d suggest adding:

    • RIFF (noun) – Possible abbreviation of ‘riff-raff’, in some ways a predecessor to ‘chav’ but with a greater emphasis on trampiness and filth.

    • RIFFY (adjective) – A word used to describe a riff or something trampy, cheap or tacky.

    • STIG / STIGGY (As above, but relating to 70s children’s book and TV show Stig of the Dump).

    • ACKEY (noun, not sure of the spelling) – Children’s game, a sort of hybrid of Tig and Hide & Seek, the difference being the seeker (nominated as being ‘on’) has to race the person they’ve found back to the ‘Ackey Post’ from where they began their search. If the seeker reaches the post first, the person they’ve found is ‘on’ next round. If the person found gets back to the Ackey post first, they shout “Ackey 1-2-3 Save All!”, effectively saving the remaining hiders from capture in that round.

  • Creese

    Ha! We had a similar variation of this (SW Brum/ NE Worcs) called “Paxies”. Crossing your fingers prior to a moment of getting tigged and saying “I’ve got paxies” ensured immunity from whatever form of lurgy was going round that day.

  • Paddy Collins

    What about “ee arr” – here you are. A catch all phrase like “there you go ” in the USA.

    It can mean:
    Here you are.
    Hold on a second.
    Look out!
    Listen to him/her
    Look at this.
    Etc etc

  • Paddy Collins

    Someone told me ‘the Nob’ had something to do with turning the trams round , as they used to end their run from Town out there.

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    Yes, I remember ‘arlies’ well. I’ll add that in when I get a chance. I also remember people saying ‘arley-barley’. Maybe related to ‘alibi’?

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    I’ve never actually heard ‘jasper’, but someone suggested it so I put it in. Maybe it was a sting. See what I did there?

    I definitely remember ‘div’ and I’ve heard it used much more recently.

  • Nick Cole

    Enjoyed reading that, particularly as it reminded me of piano lessons just down the road!

  • Backarackhams

    I think you’ll find it’s Backarackhams. Brilliant. Missed out ‘boff’

  • tubamirum

    So there I am, a brand spanky new shiny teacher at my first job in a Brum comp in the early seventies and it’s my first day. I’m in the queue for dinner behind the headmaster, (The boss) and the dinner lady greets the headmaster, ” And what’ll you have bab?” To which he replied in a perfectly normal, ordinary sort of voice with his choice for the day. Loved Brum since I arrived. but that was a magic moment when the boss was addressed as “Bab” and it was so normal. Who would want to live anywhere else?

  • Dan

    Aside from the cob/roll/teacake/barm debate, the other one I always enjoy is regional equivalents of Acky 1 2 3 (or whatever everyone outside of my Birmingham suburb called the game of hide and seek with a den you had to sneak back to unnoticed).

  • Steve Smart

    I’d like to add “Gobbies” – glass marbles twice the size of a standard marble, and “Steelies” ball bearings the same. If I recall the exchange rate was 2 marlies = 1 gobby. 2 gobbies = 1 steely

    Awesome

  • Steve Smart

    Sorry – just seen these below..

  • Darren Smith

    Don’t forget ‘Twos’ this was used when people who smoked wanted a drag and would then complain to their mates that the “end is as wet as a ducks arse..” there was also mong, which is offensive at best but is still used today to describe somebody who is slightly worse than a div.
    Also Birmingham is fondly known to us local folk as Brum or Brum-igham :-)

  • Debbie Gent

    Also known as piecey (pronounced peesee) in our house. As in “I’m ‘ungry” – ” ‘Ave a piecey”

  • Frances Mann

    This language is a mix of Black Country and Brummie, people from outside get them mixed up

  • Daddy Bear

    Don’t forget you can only ‘scrage’ your knee in Birmingham and what about ‘stair rods’? As in it is raining very heavily. It is coming down in ‘stair rods’.

  • Ed Broomhall

    Not all of them are/were Brummie ( I am a life long Brummie ) also the 64 bus went from the city centre to Erdington in North Birmingham.

  • laws

    brought back memories. Forgot how many I used to and still do use. Realise now why the Yorkshire folk give me queer looks. Another one to add, but it’s more pronunciation is tuth rather than tooth.

  • Osky

    Great list I still use quite a few of them. Haven’t noticed ‘gulley’ meaning public footpath between two houses mentioned yet. Also the verb to ‘tank’ as in to run, ride or drive very fast.

  • Ash Pryce

    Most of these are Midlands slang, not just Brum.

  • Mary Morris

    Miskin for dustbin and scraige for scraped knee

  • brian

    oh my god I forgot so many of them brings it all back lol

  • brian

    Here one for you : “Town” Birmingham city centre as in are you going to town on Saturday

  • Garry Bywater

    Orright bab?

  • Garry Bywater

    The Leyland,,..The Rover… These are very new words to me, but there again it’s because I’m a complete generation older than you Tom. All Longbridge employees worked at “The Austin”, (or, if they were in the East Works, “Up the Austin”)… (And that’s pronounced “Orstin”, not “Osstin” as in Kent/Essex speak!)

  • Garry Bywater

    Well said, Tom! …Disgust, derision and even pity! And on many occasions too. It’s very much akin to racism when one is on the receiving end, and I experienced it a lot when I spent some time in Kent (but of course it’s quite understandable since, as we all know, they don’t have any accent down in Essex/Kent, do they!)

  • Garry Bywater

    Makes me wanna BOAK! …. (Blackcountry… = Throw-up !!

  • Kim

    Playing in the gully (back alley)

  • claire

    Brilliant, brought back lots of childhood memories :-)

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    As soon as I saw this comment, I remembered that it was ‘The Austin’, not ‘The Leyland’, so I’ve amended the post. I think people may have said ‘The Rover’, but it could be a false memory. I’ve left it in for now. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    I’ve amended the entry for ‘sixties’ now.

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    On the theme of ‘mong’, I did write, and then decide not to include, an entry for ‘Rubery’, which was used as an insult because of the mental hospital that used to be there. You said it in the same manner as ‘mong’, ‘spaz’, ‘joey’ etc. I hope no-one who heard it had relatives at the hospital.

  • steve ‘griffo’ griffiths

    this is fabulous, tom. it needs a black country section for things like ‘yampy’ – ‘yawm yampy yow am’ [you're stupid/crazy] ‘yompin’ it’ – walking somewhere are but 2. p.s. miles is the singer of the wonderstuff, not a true brummie, he’s from kidderminster or somewhere like that. fuzz was the drummer in pop will eat itself and bentley rhythm ace – he’s a real brummie, used to live down the road from me in edgbaston [the cheap side!].

  • Charlotte

    I don’t know if it is a Brummie thing, but since moving over here to Oz, I do keep getting laughed at for saying that I’m going to do the ‘hoovering’ ha ha. Also a lot with my pronunciation of bus, money and bucks!

  • Simon

    I was in my oil tot reading this…thanks

  • Pandora

    I like this but there were a couple that did not feel quite right.. I thing Skill was usually spoken in the plural. Ah Skills! Maybe it is a Coventry thing and not Birmingham but we used to say “batch” not “cob”. I love the ones to do with fighting and running away. They are spot on. Also the word “like” features a lot. “He was like legging it like” or “right like” was a variation. We also often call roundabouts islands in the midlands.

  • Jeff Casey

    Wotcha Tom, I too am a Bournvile old boy (albeit a slightly older one) have to say I recognise 98% of your list and confess that some of them I didn’t realise were colloquial! Certainly some of your examples will have been close to falling into disuse by 1980 (rocks, mardy, lamp) although I still liberally spread them in my everyday conversations just to see the look if slight incomprehension on the faces of some folk. I also slavishly refer to the ‘buzz’ when in conversation with middle class folk because it never fails to make ‘em wince.
    A couple you might add might be ‘Babby’ (baby or small child), Banners (spectacles).

    A typical use: “I was on the buzz up town with the babby when I sindya through the winda with me new banners.”

  • Castle Brom Cam

    Scrage
    e.g:
    “Worruv ye dun to yer leg?”
    “I fell over and scraged me knee…”

  • Mak

    Ent erd no buddy tork like this ‘f’ yonks.

  • PW

    Benny did indeed live in Northfield. Just over the green on the other side of St. Joseph’s Avenue and off St.Laurence Rd.

  • Mary

    Dip is also fried bread.”go an play up your own end” I remember from my childhood in Erdington.

  • Matt Lloyd

    Hi Tom, thanks so much for this, which transported me back to my Brummie youth. I showed it to my dad, who remembers teaching you English at Bournville, and said you were ‘probably the most literate boy I ever taught at Bournville, suitably detached and critical of his English teacher with a dry and sardonic skill in parody.’

    Right, I’ve probably embarrassed both of you now,so tara a bit!

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    Thanks for commenting Matt – and thanks to your dad for the kind words. I remember Mr Lloyd very well (I can’t bring myself to call him ‘Mike’, even after all these years). He was a brilliant and genuinely inspiring teacher, particularly considering how much dossing about he had to contend with while trying to teach us about ‘Julius Caesar’ in U19. I hope he’s well and enjoying retirement.

  • Matt Lloyd

    Thanks, I’ll pass that on. He’s very well and enjoying his allotment in Harborne.

    Speaking of dossing, I remember it also being used as an alternative to wag it, as in ‘We dossed off games.’

    Then there was ‘Steam!’, the local variant of ‘Piley on!’

    And does anyone else refer to Birmingham as The Nam, or was that just my mate Martin…?

  • David O’Ryan

    Quality mate I was at Bournville 79-83 did go down Damo’s once but they used to let them out 10 mins before us to stop us clashing on the buzzes.. forgot so many of those Youve got a Brass Neck..

  • Ljross

    Does anyone use the word scrage? It is the same as graze. “I have scarves my knee”

  • RS

    Paul Henry also lived for a time in Northfield Road, a few doors away from my grandparents, opposite Kings Norton Boys School. Often saw his daughter going to the local shop – sadly she later died in a car accident.

  • Phil

    Tek as in trek it with you

  • Amanda

    How about In her oil tot? Meaning ‘she’s really happy’ or ‘over the moon’.

  • André Roberts

    The “Rover” was in Solihull, the “Jag” in Coventry, depends how old you are or what “Lungbridge” was called when your Dad worked there, it was called the “Rover” by many people from the late nineties to the noughties…….to me it’s the “Orstin”.

  • André Roberts

    I thought a “Jasper” was a kind of marlie?

  • Geordie

    I enjoyed hearing all those sayings,lived in brum in the 60s and 70s and found the lingo easy to pick up.Having said that I am from Newcastle upon Tyne and they talk funny up here at times.thanks Tom well done

  • john

    No-body has mentioned the time. ie five and twenty two. or five and ten past etc…

  • john

    or my favourite milk – Sterra..!

  • john

    No-body has mentioned the time. ie five and twenty two. or five and ten past etc…
    Or my favourite Milk – Sterra..!

  • Norfolk Brummie

    When I wuz a bab me and me mates went up the aquedocks

  • san

    no one seems to remember the hoss road.. my mother always referred to the road as the hoss road.. and any river or water way as the cut.

  • Pete

    Caser: A football with a proper leather casing and separate inner. By about 1986, Mitre was the predominant brand of caser.

  • Vix

    I’m sure benny lived round the corner from me in cofton in the 80s though that might have actually been barnt green