Birmingham & Brummagem

Posted by PDM on February 25, 2003

On the 'Phrase Finder' page for 'Brummagem Screwdriver' it states that:
( meanings 58900.html)

"'Brummagem' is a slang version of 'Birmingham', which is a version of 'Bromwicham', itself a version of 'Brimidgeham', the old name for Birmingham. The Bromwicham form persists in the name of the town to the west of Birmingham - West Bromwich. "

Actually, going as far back as 1086, the Domesday form of this name is 'Bermingha.', so Brimidgeham is not the older name for Birmingham.
The origins of the name are, in fact, Anglo-Saxon, ie pre-Domesday, and mean: the homestead (ham) of the people (ingas) of Beorma.
Beorma's inga's ham = Birmingham.
The form 'Brummagem' (there are actually many, many variants) evolved as a result of pronunciation. The 'r' and the vowel towards the beginning of the word have changed places, and the hard 'g' towards the end, has softened. There is a record of the spelling 'Brumingeham' in 1189, I believe.

Brummagem is not a 'slang' word for Birmingham, it is an alternative version of the name - as are the other variants mentioned. 'Brummagem' became the name used by the locals.
However, the unfortunate association between the name 'Brummagem' and some counterfeit goods produced by a few unscrupulous Brummies, resulted in the word 'brummagem' actually being given the dictionary meaning: 'counterfeit'. This led the likes of local industrialist, Matthew Boulton, to use the term 'Birmingham' for his products. The form 'Birmingham' became more socially acceptable in these circumstances.
'Brummagem' is an evolved, form of 'Birmingham'. It is neither more correct nor more incorrect than 'Birmingham'; it is not earlier than 'Birmingham'; it is not slang for Birmingham; and it may not be anything to do with 'West Bromwich'.