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Mum’s the word

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  • Mum’s the word is an idiom that dates back to the turn of the eighteenth century. We will look at the meaning of the idiom mum’s the word, where it comes from and some examples of its use in sentences.

    Mum’s the word is an admonition to keep something quiet, to keep something secret, to remain silent. Though the oldest known use of the idiom mum’s the word occurred in 1704, the word mum was in use long before that time. The word mum to mean silent is related to the word mummer, which is a type of entertainment from Medieval times. Mummers performed dances, games or plays in silence. In Philadelphia, the tradition is kept alive in the Mummers Parade that is performed yearly on New Year’s Day. In Shakespeare’s play Henry VI, Part 2 written in 1592 we find: “Seal up your lips and give no words but mum.” In this case, the word mum has no relation to the word mummy or Mum, a name for mother. Note that the word mum’s in mum’s the word is a contraction of mum is, and therefore requires an apostrophe.

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    Examples

    She read news stories about the crash and texted “mum’s the word” to a friend, he said, but feigned surprise when police told her she’d hit a person. (The Times Herald-Record)

    Otherwise it’s mum’s the word, but Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s juggernaut Conan Doyle reboot isn’t the only crime drama returning this coming week. (The Independent)

    Mum’s the word with respect to a Memorandum and Order issued by Chief Judge John Tunheim on Dec. 8 disqualifying the Stinson Leonard Street firm from a consolidated lawsuit against mortgage loan originator Impac Funding. (The Minnesota Lawyer Magazine)

    Who Designed Hillary Clinton’s White Suit at the DNC? Mum’s the Word (The Hollywood Reporter)

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