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“Mum’s the word!”

Mother’s Day is celebrated on different days all over the world and in Italy it’s 14th May. In English there are different ways of saying Mother – Mum, Mummy (generally used by children), Ma (as in “car”), Mam, Mammy, Mom (common in the US), Mommy..

So many names, yet “mum” in this idiom does not mean mother. Instead the word here refers to ‘mmm’ – the sound we can make when we close our mouth, when we don’t or can’t speak. A mime or to mime (“mimo” or “mimare”) have their origins from the sound “mmm” because we don’t speak.

If you say “Mum’s the word!” to someone you are asking them to say nothing – to keep a secret.

You might say:

  • “I’m organizing a surprise 18th birthday party for my son. Mum’s the word!”
  • “Don’t tell Richard that his daughter is coming from London! Mum’s the word!”
  • “He’s made a reservation at a romantic restaurant for his anniversary and his wife doesn’t know anything about it! Mum’s the word!”

Can you think of an example when you have wanted someone to keep a secret and you could have said “Mum’s the word?”

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!

The English Tree Team