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People often think that "mum" is short for mother, but actually the word is an onomonopeia, a word that imitates the source of the word. in this case it came from the sound of trying to talk through closed lips. Go ahead, try it. Sounds like mmm, right?
One historian traces the phrase back to the mummers or mimes, who acted out various skits in silence. A form of the phrase was used in John Palsgrave's 1540 translation of the Latin text The Comedye of Acolastus, "I dare not to do so moche as put my hande to my mouthe, and saye mum, is counseyle."
But Shakespeare also used the phrase, in a slightly different form, in Henry VI, Part 2, "Seal up your lips and give no words but mum."
From there it became a common way of telling someone to stay silent.
Mum's the word is a popular English idiom. It is related to an expression used by William Shakespeare, in Henry VI, Part 2.
"Mum's the word" means to keep quiet, say nothing. "Mum" is a Middle English word meaning "silent". The word may be derived from the "mmm" sound made when one tries to speak with lips closed.
The origins of the phrase can be traced back to the fifteenth century Towneley Plays“ Though thi lyppis be stokyn, yit myght thou say ‘mom’. ”
and notably in Shakespear's Henry VI, Part 2, Act 1, Scene 2:“ Seal up your lips and give no words but mum.
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