Yum, Yum, Yum
|By Nell Jones - daughter, writer,
Every time my family sits down for dinner, a melody of “yums” comes from my dad. The “yums” are even more pronounced and frequent when a member of the family, including himself, cooked the meal.
We sit at the dining room table knowing that the “yums” will fill any lags in the dinner conversation, or interrupt non lags. So one day my mom asked, “where does the word ‘yum’ even come from?”
As we probably all know and have experienced, “yummmm” is a popular word to say when you are eating something that you really enjoy. Some people say it more than others and some people hate the word completely.
I asked my dad why he says it so much, to the point where it annoys us at dinner. At first, he didn’t even know he was saying it.
Then when we pointed it out, he realized that he says it all the time with each bite of food he likes, but he has no idea why he’s saying it. So I thought I would look into it for him.
Where Does The Word Yum Come From
There are a few theories as to what the word “yummy” is and where it came from. One hypothesis is that “yummy” or “yum” is a form of “child speak” as it sounds like other words like “tummy” and “mummy”. However, there is no strong connection between children and the word “yummy”.
Another thought is that the word is an onomatopoeia that imitates an actual sound. In the dictionary, the origin of the word is listed as “imitative”, as it supposedly is reproducing a natural sound.
So maybe the uncontrollable ‘yums’ coming from my dad is less of him saying a word and genuinely just a sound that he makes when he eats that forms the sound of “yum”, especially with the extra “mmmmm” at the end.
However, if you took Latin in school like me, you probably want a better explanation for the origin of the word. The word has existed in dictionaries since the late 19th century.
Probably the best explanation that I’ve read is that the word comes from Sanskrit word “Yum”. This word is said during meditation and is meant to help the meditator focus on good things and love when they are meditating.
Now it’s starting to make sense.
This repeated “yum” was picked up from meditation in India in the 1800s and brought back to my dad’s dinner vocabulary.
While this explanation makes the most sense to me, there are other offered explanations to the origin of the word “yum”. It is also thought that the word derives from word “nyam” in the West African language which means “to taste”.
Or from an English word “yam”, which means “to eat”, which also probably came from the word “nyam” as well. This derivation fits the time line, since the word “yam” goes back to the 18th century, a full century before “yum”.
(I’m imagining a mom sitting at the dinner table telling her kid “yaaaaaaaam” and the kid’s response being “yuuuuuuum”. Maybe?)
Through my research of the word “yum”, I have found that there is no definitive origin of the word but there were a lot of accounts of people finding the word “yummy” annoying because of the baby talk qualities. The word can be traced back to words in other languages or cultures that may have sounded similar and used in the same context.
Or the word may have evolved from the form of meditation that forms when eating, in my opinion. Whichever the case, it doesn’t seem like the word is going to go anywhere. We will learn it as babies and continue to use it into our sixties.
Maybe if my mom just views our dinner table as just one big mediation of food, she won’t get annoyed by the sea of “yums”. And maybe if my dad thinks that he’s essentially just saying “to taste” or “to eat” over and over again, he’ll stop.