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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. H. Sayce   28 July 1877

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

July 28/77

Dear Sir,

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.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Archibald Henry Sayce
Sent from
Source of text
Bodleian Libraries (Eng. lett. d.63: 51–2)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11077,” accessed on 20 June 2018,