Today is #IOTW “Mum’s the word”! Yay! Have you heard of this expression before, fellas? “Mum’s the word” means “to keep quiet”, it is said when you agree to keep an information as a secret.
Ex: “Please don’t tell anyone. This is a huge secret.” “Alright. Mum’s the word.”
Nurseries and kids’ toys use this expression as a name for their product. Makes you wonder “does it mean like ‘don’t tell anyone mum’s secret.’?”. I used to wonder that way. So, why “mum”? What is mum, a fancy way of saying Mother in British English, got to do with silent or secret? The answer is NONE. Yeah, it was surprising for me too.
Mum is a Middle English word that means silent. It came from “mmm”, the humming sound made with closed mouth. This word went way back to 1376. The first notable use of this word was from William Langland’s poem, Piers Plowman. “Thou mightest beter meten the myst on Malverne hulles then geten a MOM of heore mouth til moneye weore schewed.” I know, I don’t understand the words either. Haha. That sentence is loosely translated into: “You may as well try to measure the mist in Malverne Hills as to try to get a word from her mouth without first offering payment.” Shakespeare, in one of his masterpiece, Henry VI Part 2, actually coined the expression “mum’s the word”: “Seal up your lips and give no words but mum.”
Compiled by @bintilvice for @EnglishTips4U on Friday, 04 December 2015.