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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Your Name Is Mud

One of those old westerns is keeping my brother entertained on this cold, dreary day. Listening in from another room, I heard a character referred to  by the name of Dr. Samuel Mudd. 

Dr. Samuel Mudd was widely reviled for his part in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He is the doctor who gave medical help to John Wilkes Booth's broken leg acquired in his escape after shooting Lincoln in 1865. Mudd was convicted of being Booth's co-conspirator, although the evidence against him was ambiguous and circumstantial, and many historians argue that he was innocent of any murderous intent.

Got me to thinking about a saying that's been around a while...'your name is mud'.  Ever wonder what this phrase is all about? I did and went looking for an explanation. Seems like 'your name is mud', was in general circulation long before Lincoln was assassinated. 


The word began to be used in a figurative sense as early as the 16th century to refer to things that were worthless or polluting. That usage was later extended to apply to people, as listed in the 1703 account of London's low life, Hell upon EarthMud, a Fool, or thick skull Fellow.


The combination of meanings of 'decaying and worthless' and 'extremely' was enough for the association of it with someone's name to become an insult - hence 'your name is mud'.


So, that saying doesn't really have anything to do with the infamous Doctor Mudd. He just had the misfortune of being stuck with the name.

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