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Posted by James Briggs on December 03, 2002

In Reply to: Stumm? posted by Bob on December 03, 2002

: : : : Can anyone let me know the origin and meaning of the phrase "mom's the word"?

: : : "Mum's the word" is British slang meaning "I won't say anything about the subject" or "I'll keep silent on that issue". There's another now old-fashioned British expression, using mum in the exact same way - namely, keeping mum, meaning to keep silent. This was a popular phrase during the 2nd World War, as you'll see.

: : : Mum in this sense is apparently of Middle English origin, with speculation that it's imitative, perhaps of closing one's lips.

: : I've heard to keep stumm about something. Is there a relationship?

: "Mum's the word" and "keep mum" are common enough in America, too. Not strictly British.

To keep mum is to remain quiet; to keep information to oneself. The Mum here is connected to the German 'mummeln', to mumble. It has long been used in this manner in English and one of the oldest examples is found in the dice game called Mumchance. This had to be played in absolute silence.