Fum

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3 comments on this post.
  1. Jim niro:

    What about the lyrics of the Christmas carol “Fum, fum,, fum”? “On December five and twenty fum, fum, fum.”

  2. walter louis:

    In my opinion any time you start to try and figure out the etymology of phonetic lyrics,you are -ahem- investigating
    [ please note the clever detective reference]
    wordless singing which i argue is primal in the evolution of language ie animal calling becomes singing becomes speaking.

  3. Alex:

    Walter, that theory is probably wrong as singing and speaking involve totally different parts of the brain (right and left hemispheres respectively). This is why if a left-brain stroke patient loses their language they use singing therapy to get them to try and “re-lateralise” to the right side.

    I’d be very careful about the Catalan folk song and the Jack and the Beanstalk example, both seem onomatopoeic for your average (g)rumbling noise.

    “Fum” was the Middle English way of saying “fume(s)”, borrowed from French (compare “parfum”). The vowel would have been a straight “oo”, no “y” sound in there.

    However I can’t find any mention of it in standard dialect. I would argue it’s a family thing, scent is commonly sold in French (“eau de parfum”, etc.) Maybe a child’s/playful coinage within the family from reading one of the bottles.

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