Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog

Word of the Day: mum

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A mum is a popular perennial. The head of this is round and reasonably large, flowering in a variety of colors. Mum is the common nickname for chrysanthemum in the United States. In England, mum is the affectionate term for mom, and is technically short for mummy. But before you run off to buy Mum a bouquet of mums for Mother’s Day, there are some other mums to ponder. Like the adjective, meaning “quiet” or “silent.” Curiously, the originally spelling of this word was mom. It’s an imitative word: When your lips are sealed, the sound that comes out is a lot like mum. It’s probably related to mumble, used when someone’s speech is incomprehensible.

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