On Getting Mullered

BBC NEWS | The Reporters | Robert Peston

Then there’s the plight of all those overseas businesses that manufacture cars in the UK.
They’re being mullered by a massive contraction of available credit and a collapse in sales.

(My emphasis)
The premier journalist for these days of collapsing economies, Robert Peston, uses a phrase I’ve only heard in pubs and student haunts, where it means “badly damaged or drunk.” What a strange word it is too and, of uncertain, recent derivation; how odd for a BBC journalist to be using what is still considered an outsider, slang word. The peeps over at World Wide Words find an OED entry saying it was used earliest in UK prison slang in the 1950s to mean “badly beaten up”, with the OED editor Jonathan Green thinking it derived from the same root as “mulled”, as in wine, from some odd indo root meaning “die”. Elsewhere, I’ve seen the derivation as that coming from Gerd Muller, who played football for Germany in the 1970s (third-highest scoring striker of all time.) My feeling would be that the word will have been popularised by this, but was already in circulation amongst lags by that time.

Considering how recent the common usage is and the crucial “er” in the middle, I’d think it must come from a famous name of the era; the only two I can find easily are a chess-player and a radio physicist, so I doubt it was either of them. I’d suggest Franz Muller, an infamous murderer of the 1860s, who not only beat up a banker then threw him to his gruesome death from a moving train but then became even more famous for the strange cut-down beaver hat that he wore and left at the scene, which became oddly popular (Winston Churchill was the most famous wearer).

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