`mealy mouthed’

We often meet people who are hesitant to say what is on their mind. When something unpleasant happens, they refuse to speak plainly or openly about the matter. When you say that someone is `mealy mouthed’, what you mean is that the individual is not frank or sincere. He is not brave enough or honest enough to speak his mind. The term is normally used to show contempt for an individual.

*Jai is a young, mealy-mouthed politician that people just love to hate.

Food that is dry and powdery is often referred to as being `mealy’. So when you say that someone is `mealy-mouthed’, what you mean is that the person has something dry and powdery in his mouth. He is therefore unable to speak clearly. According to scholars, the expression comes from the German `Mehl im Maule behalten’, meaning `to carry a meal in the mouth’.

Source: ‘Know Your English’ (The Hindu) – February 19, 2007

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One thought on “`mealy mouthed’

  1. I am German. Mehl means flour…in Old German…it referred to ground grain of any kind. You have changed the meaning entirely by adding an ‘a’ before the word meal. In English, meal also means that, not just something one eats at certain times of the day. That extra article ‘a’ is not present in the online encyclopedias/dictionaries. At least not the ones I checked for the English translation (being curious if they had gotten it wrong).

    “Mehl im Maule” means to have a mouth full of grain (or flour)…a dry mouth which renders a speaker unable to speak.

    BTW, Maul is a word that we use to refer to any non-human mouth – horse, dog cat, insect. When used referring to humans, it is mean in a derogatory manner…which is fitting for this expression.

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