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I have encountered the name The Black Country in old books. From Wikipedia:

The Black Country is a loosely defined area of the English West Midlands conurbation, to the north and west of Birmingham, and to the south and east of Wolverhampton.

Is that name still applicable to this area nowadays? Is it a widely known definition among the UK population and English speaking society, in general?

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It's widely known to Brits, but not often used to refer to the area as it is today. The heavy industry is largely gone, and we're now much more environmentally conscious - the sooty buildings have been cleaned, and there's not so much filth in the air to blacken them again. So it's not really so appropriate now. –  FumbleFingers Aug 1 '12 at 23:49
    
@FumbleFingers - but the glam rock and daft accent country doesn't really scan ! –  mgb Aug 2 '12 at 3:03
    
I believe it got the name because the presence of coal close to the surface made the soil black in colour, not because heavy industry covered everything in soot. Doubtless everything was covered in soot though. The Wikipedia article on Black Country seems to support this. –  Martin Aug 2 '12 at 7:41
    
@Martin: The wikipedia article does indeed say "some historians suggest that" explanation, but it's flagged up as lacking sources, and I don't rate it as credible. There isn't that much coal near the surface; very little of the total visible soil would be darkened by it. –  FumbleFingers Aug 2 '12 at 14:05

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Google Ngram Viewer suggests the term did not noticeably decline in popularity over the course of the 20th century:

Google Ngram Viewer for "Black Country"

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