Monday, October 23, 2017


Mumchance's the Word

I've often heard the expression "Mum's the word," but until recently the word "mumchance" was unknown to me. Oxford English Dictionary s.v. mumchance, v.:
1. intr. To masquerade. Obs. rare.
2. intr. Eng. regional. To keep silent, to remain sullenly silent.
Id., s.v. mumchance, n. and adj.:
A. n.
1. (a) A dice game resembling hazard. Now hist. (b) In extended use: a chance, a hazardous venture (cf. HAZARD n. and adj. Phrases 2). Now Eng. regional (rare).
2. Silence. to play mumchance: to keep a dogged silence. Obs.
3. Sc. Masquerade; mumming. Obs.
4. A person who acts in a mime or dumbshow; (hence) a person who has nothing to say. Also used as a nickname, or as the type of a silent person. Now Eng. regional.
B. adj.
Silent, mute; tongue-tied. Frequently in to sit (also stand, etc.) mumchance.
"A person who has nothing to say" — that describes me perfectly. Michael Mumchance.

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Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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