RECORD: Champneys, F. H. 1881. Notes on an infant. Mind. 6 (21): 104-107.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 5.2021. RN1

NOTE: See the record for this item in the Freeman Bibliographical Database by entering its Identifier here. See Darwin, C. R. 1877. A biographical sketch of an infant. Mind. A Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy 2 (7) (July): 285-294. F1779 Darwin's abstract of Champney's article is in CUL-DAR75.56.

[page] 104

Notes on an infant.

The following notes, based on Mr. Darwin's most interesting and accurate report of the unfolding of the senses, emotions, &c., in one of his own children (MIND VII.), are offered as a small contribution to this interesting subject, on which observations, so constantly at hand, ought to be more often carefully made. They concern the writer's infant son, and extend from the moment of birth through a period of 9 months.

[page] 105

[Extract from A biographical sketch of an infant]

[page] 106

[Extract from A biographical sketch of an infant]

[page] 107

[Extract from A biographical sketch of an infant]

I have one or two remarks to make on Mr. Darwin's paper. He says:

"On the 7th day I touched the naked sole of his foot with a bit of paper and he jerked it away, curling at the same time his toes, like a much older child when tickled."

Such reflex movements can be provoked in utero, and can be utilized in obstetric operations for distinguishing a hand from a foot, the hand closing on the finger. Kicks can be excited even through the abdominal walls by sudden movements, and by direct contact in the way of tickling.

With regard to the words "mum" used by Mr. Darwin's child, and "ham" used by M. Taine's to express food, I would suggest that both were invented subsequently to the use of solid food, for Mr. Darwin's infant invented "mum" at 12 months, and M. Taine's invented "ham" at 14 months. Both words seem to be the result of a vowel sound during mastication. Let any one try to eat or move his mouth as in eating, pronouncing at the same time any vowel sound. He will find that each vowel is closed by the letter "m" which is common to "mum" and "ham". "Mum" is the result of "u" with the mouth first shut, then opened, then shut. "ham" (probably without the "h" aspirated, especially as an aspirated "h" is too much for the recti abdominis muscles of an infant) is the result of an "a" similarly treated.

That "m" is one of the earliest acquired consonants, appears from the word "mama".

I would also suggest that the word "mumble," used of a dog growling while gnawing a bone, is probably onomatopoetic, and to be similarly explained. I do not know the etymology of the Latin word "mando".


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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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