On Thursday, I went to The Heath Bookshop twice, once with my friends Claire and Jaime and Genny, who I know from the LibraryThing Virago group and then when I ran into my other (local) friend Claire and found she was having a book emergency (what to buy for a friend’s birthday?) and I marched back up with her there to help her choose, and I had said I wasn’t going to buy any books but this little slip of a thing, bought on the first visit, didn’t count, did it? And then I’d finished a Shiny review book and there it was, so now it’s read, and after a quick check with local friends (because, really??), here are a few thoughts on it.

Stephen Burrows & Michael Layton – “Ta-ra-a-bit, Our Kid: A Little Book of Language Used by Brummies”

(09 March 2023, The Heath Bookshop)

To gambol: To perform a forward roll. Everyone in Birmingham knows what this is, but few realise that hardly anyone else in Britain does. (pp. 35-36)

This is a little book about language used by people from Birmingham and the Black Country, traditionally kept separate (most people who try to do a Birmingham accent do a Black Country one) but here mixed in to reflect how these words and phrases echo through many a Midlands home.

After an introduction mainly explaining how most of these terms have obscure origins and a note on pronunciation, we start off with phrases and move on to verbs and nouns, with lots of colourful and amusing entries in a somewhat random order. There were plenty I’d heard and others I hadn’t; the authors take a slightly old-fashioned view, not keen perhaps on things being too PC (although there’s nothing offensive here apart from a few dodgy phrases for women) and while I’m no grammar pedant even though people think I am because of my job, it could have used a bit of tidying up and consistency here and there.

But like an old town museum, there are little jewels here and it does also record language that might fade away with time, although a group including my contemporaries and younger certainly chimed in enthusiastically when I checked on one term! Yes, a gambol = a forward roll up here. I’d never heard that, but then I thought everyone in the UK ate “gypsy tart” [sorry for the outdated word; it’s still called that in recipes up to the present day] and then found out that was pretty well only a Kent thing!