your name is mud

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your name is mud

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Apr 12, 2004 3:22 pm

I'm trying to settle an argument. Is this phrase from history or did it originate from mud being dirty and thus your name/reputation is dirty?
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your name is mud?

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Apr 12, 2004 3:37 pm

There is a previous thread about this, but I wanted to know more because I grew up with what is probably the same "historical reference" you're thinking of. At the Sheffield-Hallam University web site ( I found the following entry:
John Wilkes Booth broke his leg while escaping after shooting Abraham Lincoln. He was given medical help by Dr Samuel Mudd, who didn't then know about the assassination. Mudd was wrongly convicted of being Booth's conspirator. Actually the phrase was in wide circulation before Mudd was defamed. Mudd was born in 1830: this comes from an 1823 'slang dictionary, 'And his name is mud!' Ejaculated upon the conclusion of a silly oration, or of a leader in the Courier.' The phrase appears to be one of the many that, when a news story arises, matches the jist of the story and later become associated with it.

--Lois Martin, Birmingham, Alabama
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Re: your name is mud

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:23 pm

I came across the following quote and thought I’d expand a bit on what was said above. [also see anachronisms].
<2006 “‘You’ve got some brains, lawyer. I’ll give you that. Though after losing those papers your name will be mud among those who rule us. . . .’”—Sovereign by C. J. Sansom, page 209>

ONE’S NAME IS MUD: One is in trouble, disgraced, discredited, defeated, embarrassed, or has lost favor, etc. <If they found out I broke it, my name will be mud.> [Plain old base and worthless mud has never been exactly a popular item to be named after. In this expression, mud implies the worst part of something, the dregs, scum. Since many people consider their name (with its attendant reputation and other qualities) an important possession, they are not happy to have it likened to this lowly material.]

As mentioned in the above posting, a popular theory for this expression’s origin has it deriving it from Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who was convicted (although innocent) as a conspirator after he set the broken ankle of President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth in 1865. Although this tale undoubtedly played a role in popularizing the expression – to the point that the 'mud' was sometimes spelled mudd – it was not its source.

His name is mud first appeared in print in England in1823 (see quote below), 10 years before Mudd was born and 42 years before Lincoln’s assassination. The term apparently originated in the British Parliament in the early 19th century, when it was used for any member who disgraced himself, through either a singularly bad speech or an overwhelming defeat in an election (In the 18th and 19th centuries ‘mud’ was slang for ‘a fool’ or ‘stupid fellow.’)

(Historical Dictionary of American Slang, American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins. Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Partridge, and Picturesque Expressions by Urdang)

The following quotes are from the Historical Dictionary of American Slang and archived sources:
<1823 “‘And his name is mud!’ Ejaculated upon the conclusion of a silly oration, or of a leader in the Courier.”—Sportsman’s Slang (1925) by ‘John Bee’ (John Badcock), page 122> [[Hmm! I wonder why the author used a pseudonym.]]

<1902 “I there ever a man lived whose name ought to be mud, it was Falk.”—Dictionary of Americanisms by Mathews>

<1948 “His name is mud in all classes—they feel toward him as Americans felt toward Herbert Hoover in 1933.”—Dictionary of Americanisms by Mathews>

<1971 “Quit while you’re behind. Your name is Mud with your girls family which should come as no shock to you since you behaved like a rat.”—Huntingdon Daily News (Pennsylvania), 13 October, page 14>

<1998 “Mr. Starr's reputation is now in tatters, and his name is mud.”—The Washington Times (D.C.), 8 April>

<2012 “The firm's name is mud in large parts of the Stirling village over the local plan's potential inclusion of 800 houses on Graham's land at Airthrey Kerse, . . .”—The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), 5 August>

Ken – August 18, 2012

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