"He pushed past me, started marching through the living room, trailing mud, his hands balled, his gravity far forward, forcing him to keep walking or fall down" - p.400 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I have always understood the verb, to trail, to mean to pull something behind you, especially along the ground, which seems to fit in this context, but still... You don't really pull mud behind you, do you? Sure, the mud under your shoes leaves a path behind you but once it has been smeared onto the floor it stays there, it won't be pulled after you...

What sort of image does the author try to create in the reader?

  • "Trailing mud" seems to be quite a bit less common than the similar expression "tracking mud." My guess would be that people using "trailing mud" are misremembering the more common expression. Except that it may be popular enough at this point that it might be considered a legitimate alternative.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 20:09
  • 1
    Trailing mud – leaving a trail of mud. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 22:16
  • 2
    The mud is falling off of his body behind him as he moves around the room. It is a bit different than "tracking mud" which suggests that he had mud on his feet and created a line of muddy footsteps (like a railroad track). "Trailing" creates an image of globs or particles of mud following him.
    – SarahT
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


"Trailing" can mean that you leave a trail behind you.

Cambridge Dictionary gives this definition:

the smell or series of marks left by a person, animal, or thing as it moves along

"Trailing mud into the house" means that you have brought mud into the house from outside, perhaps leaving muddy footprints as you go.

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