Posted by James Briggs on October 27, 2002
In Reply to: Re: Looking posted by Bob on October 27, 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.
: : I'm looking but I haven't found it.
: What does the phrase mean? I'm unfamiliar with it. If it means to speak indistinctly, then the improbable image of a plum makes sense. If it means to speak carefully, perhaps someone mis-heard "speak with aplomb" ... all of which is speculation.
It's a British phrase which means to speak with an affected, supposedly upper class accent. It is somewhat derogratory. It's not used too much these days, since the so-called upper class now speak much like the rest of us. However, it's certainly detectable in old British films - it makes me cringe!