Goncalo Rodriguez, Archdeacon of Toro
Modern Language Review
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... Miscellaneous Notes 'MEALY-MOUTHED. This form is recorded by the N.E.D. for 1572 and explained as 'soft-spoken; not outspoken; afraid to speak one's mind or to use plain terms.' Meal-mouthed is recorded for 1576, and meal-mouth,= mealy-mouthed person, for 1546. The N.E.D. derivation, from meal, farina, has no probability. The earliest sense is evidently flatterer, 'flatterers and meal-mouthed merchants,' and the first element means honey (cf. mellifluous, honey-tongued). Cf. mildew, lit. honey-dew, OE. meledeaw, OTeut. *melib (Goth. milib), as in OHG. militou, MHG. miltou, now mehltau, assimilated, like meal-mouth, by folk-etymology, to mehl, meal. Meal-mouth as a nickname is three centuries older than the earliest N.E.D. record. Henry Millemuth is mentioned in the Northumberland Assize Roll for 1279 (Surtees Soc., vol. 88). The same volume contains the name of Robert Pusekat (1256), three centuries earlier than the first N.E.D. record for puss(y)-cat (1565). P.S.-I find that the accepted etymology of meale-mouthed is as old as Minsheu, who gives the meaning 'faire spoken,' quasi 'qui farinam loqueretur, cujus verba blanda sunt, & mollia instar farinae.' ERNEST WEEKLEY. NOTTINGHAM. GON(ALO RODRIGUEZ, ARCHDEACON OF TORO.