Date: Sun, 14 Dec 1997 15:52:15 -0500 From: Gregory {Greg} Downing Subject: Re: 'Mudville" At 11:07 AM 12/14/97 -0500, you wrote: > I recently received a request from _Boston Globe_ writer Robert Smith >for help in locating the original town Mudville (assuming it existed) that >inspired E.L. Thayer in his poem "Casey at the Bat." I replied that the >town is almost certainly mythical, like "Dogpatch" of the Li'l Abner comic >strip. I quoted from Paul Dickson's baseball dictionary and also referred >Mr. Smith to onomastics scholar Leonard Ashley. > > Mr. Smith replied: "I still hold hope of finding the mythical Mudville, >so I would appreciate you querying your learned friends [at ads-l]. E.L. >Thayer never pinpointed the place, but he grew up in central Massachusetts >and some in these parts are convinced it is here." > > A definitive answer might be available from the Massachusetts Historical >Society (I'll check the address tomorrow).... > >Gerald Cohen gcohen[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] > Maybe there is or maybe there isn't an original Mudville -- if there is, it's hard to imagine this wouldn't have been written about already, somewhere. But perhaps germane are various longstanding figurative uses of mud, incl. "one's name is mud/Mud," which OED2 cites from as early as 1823 (which scotches that hornetookian speculation one sometimes hears, in accordance with which the phrase derives from the name of the doctor who treated Booth after the Lincoln assassination). OED2 mud n. meaning 3 has some semantic analyses of the origin of "one's name is mud." OED2 mud n. also deals with other locutions in which "mud" is used figuratively in negative ways. Perhaps Thayer chose a fictional name to make the poem more generic, rather than attaching it to a particular place or team. But only research can say. By the late-19C the Post Office was however forcing various shall-we-say colorfully-named US localities to change to more genteel monikers. If there was anyone who ever named a town Mudville, it may therefore be that their onomatsic efforts wold have been undone before the time the poem was written (1880s or 90s as I recall). I just looked it up -- the poem was originally publd. in the Hearst newspaper in San Fran in 1888 (he and Hearst were friends from Harvard days). There's a very interesting brief bio of Thayer at: He graduated with high honors in Philosophy, was a fellow student of Santayana's and a pupil of Wm James, and also edited the Harvard Lampoon. He's known for this one poem, written when he was about 25. But no one ever said life isn't strange.... Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]