• brummagem •
brê-mê-jêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective
Meaning: 1. (Capitalized) A local contemptuous slur referring to Birmingham, England. 2. (Adjective) Counterfeit and showy, cheap, fake.
Notes: This little-known word was the original name of Birmingham, a midlands city in England. It is to this day reflected in what the inhabitants of Birmingham are called: Brummies (Brummy). In the 19th century several derivations came from today's word, an adjective, brummagemish, a noun, brummagemism (or brummagism), and a verb, brummagemize. None seem to have taken hold.
In Play: Because Birmingham had the reputation for producing more counterfeit coins than any other town in England at one time, one of the meanings today's Good Word is "counterfeit"; "I'm offered brummagem Rolex watches almost every day via e-mail." However, that sense drifted to anything tawdry and cheap: "Did you see the brummagem frock Maud Lynn Dresser wore to Marian Kine's wedding? Who does she think she's fooling!"
Word History: Today's Good Word began its life as the original name of Birmingham, England. As the name of that city changed, the original was kept as a capsule of the history of the city's reputation. By the end of the 17th century Birmingham had the reputation for counterfeiting the British groat, a four pence coin. As Birmingham grew into the great industrial city it is today, it produced more and more goods both of high quality and low, but the reputation for the low-quality goods stuck. In fact it spread: today in Australia an item is brummy (or brummie) if it is cheaply made or counterfeit. (There is nothing brummagem about Anthony Arlidge's suggestion of today's Good Word. It was an extraordinary find.)
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