Sunday, 13 February 2011


...being the third article relating to the origin of old English words and phrases.

My brother and I get on much better now than we did as children. Three and a half years was just too big an age gap back then, but now it is much less even though he does like to rub it in that he was born in a different decade from me. Not that I care - much.

Our dear mother taught us to fend for ourselves, especially where eating was concerned. One fateful Saturday morning my brother who was about 9 years old at the time, fried himself a breakfast and made an almighty mess in the process. Mum was furious and demanded to know who was the culprit. Faced with "It was him", 'No, it was him", she gave my brother the benefit of the doubt and as a punishment, I was left behind as my parents took my brother off for the planned picnic.

I spent the afternoon playing canasta with my Grandma and since she believed me, she gave me some money to go out and buy us both some cream cakes. Not wanting her daughter to know that she had treated me, she said 'Mum's the word" which as I'm sure you know, was asking me to keep things a secret.

It turns out that the phrase is Shakespearian having been used in Henry VI part two, the word 'Mum' being middle English for 'silent', probably after the sound 'mmm' made when your lips are closed.

So I had a lovely afternoon unlike my brother who was brought home wrapped in a blanket having fallen into a muddy, smelly pond.

Perfect justice.

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