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Context: Around a mouth full of food, he mumbled, "Thank you."

"Around a mouth full" reads weird to me. However, it sounds fine but like "around a mouthful of," which seems natural to my ears. But is "around a mouth full of" valid?

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  • Seems valid; you've basically elided "a mouth (which was) full of food". Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 20:55

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The suggestion is that the words had to 'go around' the food in his mouth in order to get out, not that the food was 'around' his mouth.

Note the difference between a 'mouthful' (one word) and a 'mouth full'. A 'mouthful' is a rough measurement of food - the amount that might fit in one's mouth, whereas "a mouth full" can only mean a mouth that is full. We sometimes use "the mouth" to refer to only the lips, especially when related to speaking; however, the mouth is of course the oral cavity. The food was in his mouth, and he was speaking 'around' that food.

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