Saturday, August 6, 2011

In the Beginning was Beorma

by Lee Waites

In the beginning, was Beorma.

Beorma, surely a magnificent man, was a chieftain in sixth century England, the leader of a tribe, or as they were known then, the leader of an “Ing.”

This tribe of Beorma's lived in a settlement northwest of modern London in the area now known as the Midlands. This was their home, or as it was pronounced at the time, their “ham.” 

Just try it once. Imagine you're wearing a funny hat, like those worn in, say, a play you've seen by William Shakespeare, or an old Robin Hood movie. Hold your finger up waving in a funny gesture, and say home in your best British accent. Tell me it isn't “ham.” 

So there you have it, quick and simple, the home of the people of Beorma, the ham of the ing of Beorma =  Birmingham. 

Birmingham, England came to prominence as a center of trade, mostly dealing metal armaments. It was conveniently located near existing trade routes and surrounded by the minerals needed to make their wares: iron, coal, timber and an ample supply of water. Sound familiar?

Birmingham, England was also fairly liberal with their trade regulations, allowing for the rapid growth of business. Utilizing its centralized location, Birmingham became the dominant economic force in the Midlands, producing many smithies and metalworking shops which went on to trade throughout England. You can begin to understand what the founders of our city were thinking. 

Birmingham, England is also home to the now defunct Birmingham Free Press, not to be confused with our beloved and thriving paper, but one which came long after we began, founded by a wealthy British news mogul who, by the way, contacted us only after he had begun production of his Birmingham Free Press to mention how funny it was that he was publishing under the same name we had long been using. We at the original, the real, and the still active Birmingham Free Press enjoy all sorts of humor. We especially enjoy jokes about the lack of staying power of wealthy, British news moguls. Ha!

Birmingham, England has a long, vibrant and proud history which you should check out at the same place where I got most of this information, And I can’t fail to mention that Birmingham, England also produced music legends Black Sabbath and Judas Priest! In fact, it's often called the birthplace of heavy metal music. Rock on! Oh yeah…and also Duran Duran. 

Here are some other interesting facts about our fair city's name:
  • Birmingham, England has the nickname "Brum." People from Birmingham, England are hence known as "Brummies."
  • There are actually 22 other cities named Birmingham in the United States.
  • There are even more Birminghams in Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • There is also a crater on the moon named Birmingham Crater #357. It is named after a famous astronomer, John Birmingham, who discovered a star, which he also named after himself. Birmingham crater, incidentally, lies in a larger crater, named Hell.
  • There are 154 legal Scrabble words that can be spelled using the letters in Birmingham.
  • I just always thought it was a mispronunciation of “burning ham.”