The Mummy, Mammy, and Mommy

Q: What did the Ancient Egyptian postman say to the boy?
A: “Hey, fellow, is your mummy home?”

Christmas-cracker-joke writers and unfunny uncles have long delighted in the double meanings of the word mummy. I thought about this coincidence a little recently with the release of the bland new Tom Cruise mummy film.

Unsurprisingly, there’s no link between mummy in the Ancient-Egyptian sense, and to refer to a mother. Mummy in the shambling-around-in-bandages sense is derived from the Persian word mūm  which referred to both an embalmed corpse and the embalming substance involved in the process of mummification. The other sense of the word mummy though, I find much more interesting.

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Affairs of the Heart

Why do have such reverence for the heart? Yes, it’s functioning is necessary for survival, but that’s true for our other organs too. At the end of the day, it’s a big fleshy pump that sends blood around the body (I think that’s how it’s described in Gray’s Anatomy).

It’s important, but the number of idioms we have that refer to it seem quite out of proportion, compared to how often we refer to other parts of the body. The following is just a small fraction of the heart-related idioms listed at Continue reading