Mud name shame a dirty tale
Haveyou ever wondered about the source of some of our wonderful expressions?
I was chatting with someone the other day about an incident and she commented: ‘‘ Oh I’ll bet his name is dirt!’’ I did not mean to, but well before my brain was engaged, my mouth had moved into gear and I’d corrected her. ‘‘ Mud!’’ I said. ‘‘ I beg your pardon,’’ she countered. ‘‘ No, I should beg your pardon. I was being a school marm and corrected you – it’s mud!’’
She kindly forgave me in exchange for a sharing of why it’s so. I thought I might share it with you. In fact, there is not one story but many possibilities for the origin of the expression. I’ll leave it to you to choose your favourite.
This expression has been around for a very long time in England. In the early 1700s the word was used to describe a fool. A short time thereafter it was used to describe a member of parliament who had lost an election and disgraced himself – he had dirtied his reputation.
My favourite reason though may be found in the Morris Dictionary of Words And Phrases, which tells us the very sorry tale of Doctor Samuel A. Mudd. This is the man who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth.
Booth, as you may recall, was the man responsible for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It was suggested at the time that the doctor was a member of the assassination plot and that he should be punished.
In 19th century America, if you were in trouble or associated with those in trouble, your name was ‘‘ Mudd’’ which quickly became ‘ mud’’. You were caught up in something and you became bad by association.
In fact, the expression was well in use before poor unfortunate Dr Mudd. During the Civil War, the ‘‘ gutter press’’ as we may call it was known as the ‘‘ mud press’’ as they were known to ‘‘ throw mud’’ or insinuations that would blacken the reputation of the person about whom they wrote.
What happened to Dr Mudd? He was imprisoned but pardoned and released by President Andrew Johnson in 1869. His conviction, however, was never overturned so I guess his name is still Mudd?
Sue-Belinda as a baby. See some of the North’s cutest kids in our Babies of 2010 booklet to be
published on March 23.