Susan asked about the
phrase, mum’s the word. Mum is an
inarticulate sound made with closed lips. It mimics the way that we pronounce
the letter –m-. In fact, if you say an extended –m- and open your lips for just
a fraction of a second, you will utter a mum.
Pursing the lips or
closing them is a sign of an unwillingness to speak, and that’s what mum
signifies: silence, don’t say anything, zip it. A related word is mummer, a
masked person in a play, especially a mime, who says nothing so as not to break
character. Originally, a mummer was any person who murmured or muttered.
silent, a mummy has nothing to do with mum.
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