Your Name is Mud(d)

Contextual Information

Time of Interview: April 23rd, 2012, 4:28 p.m.

Location of Interview: Interior of informant’s room, Parkside Apts.

Informant’s First Encounter w/ Folklore: Early childhood (5 or 6 years old), passed down by parents.

When Folklore is Performed: Either when admonishing someone else’s character, or when discussing family history.



“From a very young age my parents were telling me, unless they were lying to me, that I am related by marriage to Dr. Samuel Mudd, aka the origin of the idiom “Your name is mud,” which he got after setting John Wilkes Booth’s broken legs on the evening of the assassination. Um, he didn’t know that Booth had just killed the president, so he was sentenced to prison and served, like, four years in prison for being a doctor and, um, was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. Um, his name was cursed! His name was Mudd, and his name became “mud” and, fortunately, some ancestor of mine married away from it so I don’t have that name anymore!”


According to my informant, after Dr. Samuel Mudd setting John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg, he received several accusations of conspiracy and possible involvement in the Lincoln assassination. With his reputation tarnished, the once esteemed name of “Mudd” became as valuable as “mud,” hence the saying. That being said, my informant was quick to point out that Mudd was only doing his duty as a practitioner of medicine, and that he was not aware of any evidence that could have possibly tied Dr. Mudd to the actual assassination. The idiom is often used to describe someone who has either betrayed their values or had none to begin with.