Cats and Dogs - a blog for English learners

Occasional tips and tricks to help you learn more than the useless phrase "it's raining cats and dogs", brought to you by Craig Meulen, an English teacher in Germany. (Blog discontinued.)

October 17, 2008

Keep shtum

I was just listening to the latest episode of 'The Archers' – a radio soap opera from England – and it finished with a character saying "So let's keep shtum about it."

What did he mean? Well, this is a German word being spoken in English – 'stumm' means silent or mute.

And the phrase therefore means: "Let's keep quiet about it." or "Don't tell anyone about it."

Here's the entry:
and an interesting internet debate about the phrase

The phrase probably didn't come into the English language directly from German. Instead, it is an example of 'Yiddish' – a dialect spoken by Jews, which is still used by Jewish people in many countries:

As well as 'kindergarten' and 'abseil' there are lots of German words that we use in English:


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