To A. H. Sayce 28 July 1877
Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.
It would be a great pleasure to me to give you any information, but I dare not trust my memory after so long an interval. In my little paper I have given only facts which were recorded at the time.1 My impression however is that “mum” arose from opening & shutting the mouth repeatedly as a sign of wanting to eat, for this movement makes a sound like the letter m. I feel sure that several of the consonants (m, b & d being excepted) were much more difficult for my children to utter correctly than the vowels. I can only repeat my regret that I cannot aid you in your very interesting investigation.
I remain, dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Charles Darwin
Thinks "mum" comes from shutting the mouth repeatedly as a sign of wanting to eat.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11077,” accessed on 25 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-11077