Your name will be mud

Posted by ESC on April 18, 2000

In Reply to: Your name will be mud posted by David on April 17, 2000

: What is the origin of this phrase? It seems it is not related to Dr Samual Mudd who was involved with the assasination of Abraham Lincoln. What is its origin please?

From the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris:
"his name is mudd/Mudd. A reader of our column, reading of efforts to obtain a belated presidential pardon for Samuel A. Mudd, the doctor who set the broken leg of Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, raises the question of whether the popular expression 'His name is mud' should not actually be 'His name is Mudd,' referring to the fashion in which the doctor's name was blackened. In truth, it has been well established that Dr. Mudd was not a part of the conspiracy to kill Lincoln.

That's a most ingenious theory, and it wouldn't surprise us a bit if the story of Dr. Mudd and his claim of ignorance may have been contributed to the popularity of the expression during the nineteenth century. However, 'mud' in the sense of scandalous of defamatory charges goes back to a time well before the Civil War. In fact, there was an expression, 'the mud press,' to describe newspapers that besmirch people's reputations by throwing mud, as long ago as 1846. So it seems most likely that the expression 'His name is mud' was well established before Dr. Mudd met his unhappy fate."