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Some thoughts on moustaches

August 27, 2016

I’ve recently grown a moustache, for reasons not unconnected with a television show in which my family and I are involved. It’s got me thinking about the different pronunciations of moustache. The normal pronunciation here in the south-east of England is m’starsh. In the midlands, northern England, much of Wales and in Scotland it is m’stash. But some people pronounce it m’stosh. That must be associated with some particular region or regions, but I don’t know where; does anyone? (Americans, of course, both spell and pronounce it differently from all of us: MUSTache.)

Photo on 26-08-2016 at 21.49 After thinking about moustaches for a while I decided to look up the etymology of the word. Its proximate origin is French, obviously, but the French got it from the Greek word mystax, which means upper lip, and is related to the word mastax, meaning jaw; both come from the proto-Indo-European word root mendh-, meaning ‘to chew’, from which we get the word mandible. So moustaches and mandibles share a common origin. Incidentally, the Online Etymology Dictionary, where I got all that from, gives an unusual Dutch slang term for the moustache, de befborstel, which apparently means ‘clitoris stimulator’.

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One Comment
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    My first thought on seeing the Dutch meaning was “That’s a strange place to have one of those” but I think I’ve worked it out. Looks good though. As the saying goes “Both stylish and functional”.

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