born with a mouthful of silver

susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
I see on google that the phrase is usually in the form of "born with a mouthful of silver spoons" or "silver teaspoons." However, one source calls a statement by some Labour MP, who used "silver spoons," infelicitous. (www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/oct/05/monarchy.comment)

So how does the phrase go? Just "born with a mouthful of silver"? (What's wrong with "born with a mouthful of silver spoons"?) But it does refer to cutlery, right? Because if I heard that someone had a mothful of silver, I'd think of silver fillings, not of riches.

Found here that this interpretation is ok too (but you obviously can't be "born with a mouthful of silver [fillings]"):

The Best Dental Quotes | Dentistry | Dr. Chetan

“ It is guaranteed to put all teeth on edge, including George ... Tooth decay was a perennial national problem that meant a mouthful of silver for patients, ...
www.drchetan.com/best-dental-quotes.html


Thanks!

P.S. Found the phrase in Catherine Alliott, Not That Kind of Girl:

"And of course they're desperate for new recruits who haven't been born in the shires with a mouthful of silver."
 
  • cmarx

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The way I've always heard that expression is that someone "is born with a silver spoon in his mouth." The actual, real image that it conjures up for me is not that at the instant the baby was born he had silver in his mouth, but that at the time of his birth and since, his family was wealthy enough to use their silver for everyday use. I think the exaggerated wording is just for imagery.
     
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    cmarx

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Also, the term "silver" can be applied to fine silverware made from actual silver (as opposed to stainless steel, etc.), and it's reserved for special occasions, usually.
     
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    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    I suggest that the MP actually said that Prince Charles was born with a mouth full of silver spoons.

    We say someone is born with a silver spoon in his mouth to mean that, as a child, he was fed from silver cutlery. Such a person would usually have been of the aristocracy and hence very wealthy. The MP was, rather clumsily,trying to emphasise that Charles was even more privileged than such people. Of course feeding a baby with more than one spoon at a time would be impractical. Perhaps the idea was that there would be several servants feeding him at the same time!

    More likely the MP didn't understand the origin of the phrase.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I see on Google that the phrase is usually in the form of "born with a mouthful of silver spoons" or "silver teaspoons."
    No, it's not. Google must have turned up a number of sources trying but failing to use English idioms.

    The familiar phrase is "born with a silver spoon in his [or her] mouth," and it means--as others have said--that a person was born into a very wealthy family. It's a traditional figure of speech and doesn't mean, literally, that the child was fed from infancy with silver spoons.

    If I heard that someone had a mouthful of silver, I'd think of silver fillings [in the teeth], not of riches.
    So would I. That's what it normally refers to.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you everyone!!

    I now see what the actual phrase is, and understand how "born with a mouthful of silver spoons" came about in order to emphasize, as some of you said, that Prince Charles -- or whoever it was, I don't know -- was born into even greater wealth.

    So the quote from Catherine Alliott turns out to be confusing. Uses "mouthful of silver" rather than the actual phrase, and, as Parla confirmed, "mouthful of silver" has a different meaning. Although I see how the author contracted the original phrase, keeping "silver" to refer to silver cutlery.

    Thanks again!
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I followed the link AprendoSiempre gave, and found out this:

    Etymology: from the idea that silver spoons were given at birth to wealthy children

    So apparently infants were not only fed with a silver spoon but were given one at birth as well!

    I found a Web site which offers silver spoons as a new baby gift or for christening occasions:
    http://www.christeningsilver.com/Christening-Gifts/Stork-Birth-Record-Spoon-(Sterling-Silver)-1088.aspx

    Here in Romania around the time I was born people were still giving a newborn a silver coin, to be used in the bath after christening or to tie the hair at the 1-year-old birthday party, when kids were offered a tray with items and chose three items thought to define them later in life. This latter tradition is still going strong.

    So I wouldn't be surprised if children were given silver spoons. Silver is generally considered auspicious. Is any of you aware of this custom?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Etymology: from the idea that silver spoons were given at birth to wealthy children

    So apparently infants were not only fed with a silver spoon but were given one at birth as well!

    ...

    So I wouldn't be surprised if children were given silver spoons. Silver is generally considered auspicious. Is any of you aware of this custom?
    Yes, it was, and to me remains, a custom to give a new-born child in the family a gift of silver. This could be a small silver spoon, but might be any other small silver article such as a serviette ring, a chain or a bracelet.

    My children received such gifts and it is something that continues as my grandchildren arrive.
     

    sundreez

    Senior Member
    There was a time when silver was believed to ward off disease. So putting a silver spoon in a baby's mouth was meant to keep him (or her) healthy. Since silver is toxic to bacteria, it does work to some measure.
     
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