The west Midlands is a rich and diverse dialect area. While the distinctive vernaculars of Birmingham and the Black Country are probably the most well-known in the region, its borders with the north of England, Wales and the West Country are all reflected in the variety of accents, words, phrases and grammar to be found in this central part of England.

West Midlands dialects are rarely heard in the media, and the Birmingham accent is often rated in polls as the least appealing in the UK. This is probably to do with historic social class snobbery towards the area’s recent industrial past. It certainly has no linguistic basis. In fact, the dialects in the midlands have a long and fascinating history. They offer an insight into the way English may have sounded in the Middle Ages.
In the mid-1950s, researchers from the University of Leeds went round the Wrekin hunting for old forms of speech and they certainly had bostin’ results in the west Midlands. Read on to learn more about dialects from Wolverhampton to Worcester; Shropshire to Stoke-on-Trent!

Where is the west Midlands?

The answer to this simple question depends on whether you are talking about the county or the region.

The region of the west Midlands (with a small ‘w’) includes five landlocked ‘shire’ counties: Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire. This area encompasses a wide range of dialect, from the Welsh borders of Shropshire and Herefordshire to ‘Shakespeare country’ in Warwickshire. The southern parts of Worcestershire and Herefordshire share a number of dialect features with the neighbouring West Country, while Staffordshire, home to the distinctive Potteries dialect of Stoke-on-Trent, has a number of words and sounds also found in northern Englishes.

The county of the West Midlands (with a capital ‘W’) was created in the 1970s and is much smaller than the region. This metropolitan zone is made up of Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and the area in between these three cities. In these parts, a baby is a babby, a child is a nipper and its mother is its mom. Even within this smaller area, however, there isn’t just one way of speaking. While Birmingham, Black Country and Coventry dialects share some words, pronunciations and grammatical structures, there are differences between them. Speakers in each area have their own strong sense of local identity that goes hand in hand with their dialect.