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Speak with a plumb in the mouth

Posted by James Briggs on October 26, 2002

I had the following suggestion today. I haven't done any personal research into the phrase, or looked in our Archive - things really crawled along my internet connection this Saturady evening - 3 minutes to load this page!
Here's what I had. Comments please.

I have been told the origin of 'speaking with a plum in your mouth', and I wondered if you have come across this, and if so, whether you could confirm it? I was told that once upon a time, false teeth were made either from teeth removed from dead soldiers or pieces of bone. Whichever, the teeth were then set in lead 'gums' which were hinged at the back (much like the joke false teeth of today by the sound of it). This forced the wearer to speak in a strange way in order to control the teeth and cope with the spring hinge. The real saying should really be 'plumb' (lead of course), not 'plum'. It would make sense, as I have always been puzzled about 'plum', it's unlikely that anyone would actually manage to speak at all if he was able to fit a whole plum in his mouth.