May 03, 2007

Mark Twain

Dear Late Mr. Samuel Longhorne Clemens,
Since you enjoy a decent female fan following around these parts, I decided to write a post in honor of your famous pen name ‘Mark Twain’

The pseudonym "Mark Twain", came from his years working on Mississippi riverboats, where two fathoms (12 ft, approximately 3.7 m) or "safe water" was measured on the sounding line. The riverboatman's cry was "mark twain" or, more fully, "by the mark twain" ("twain" is an archaic term for two). "By the mark twain" meant "according to the mark [on the line], [the depth is] two fathoms"

Clemens claimed that his famous pen name was not entirely his invention. In Chapter 50 of Life on the Mississippi he wrote:

"Captain Isaiah Sellers was not of literary turn or capacity, but he used to jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the river, and sign them "MARK TWAIN," and give them to the New Orleans Picayune. They related to the stage and condition of the river, and were accurate and valuable; ... At the time that the telegraph brought the news of his death, I was on the Pacific coast. I was a fresh new journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient mariner's discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it was in his hands—a sign and symbol and warrant that whatever is found in its company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth; how I have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say."

PS: Incidentally, in the year 1867 Mark Twain wrote a poem called ‘Advice for little girls’. Further discussion is beyond the defined scope for Semantica :-)
Text Sources:
The painting: : A. Janicke & Co. "Our City, (St. Louis, Mo.)." 1859. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress


suramya said...

I never did search about his pen name, the story behind it has such a quaint feel about it. this post was a real zinger :)

Moi said...

Not fair!! not fair at all, 666!! i was planning to do this one..i even had the draft ready.......he belongs to moi!!! not fair at all :(((((((

Moi said...

i cant believe it that u took him from right under my nose.......

Moi said...

And u know what : Advice to little girls is a short story .....:DDDD (that's why i say i shud have written the post :DDD)

anyone interested, can read it here:

i just finished reading it and found it cute :)

Jas Bhambra said...

Hmmm, I didn't know about that "Mark Twain" was a pen name....ignorant me. :)

Radha said...

This is so interesting. There are some pieces of information that you know will never come handy or be useful to you in life, but its just so great knowing them!! :-)
Mark twain is one of my favourites, so thx for the post!!
(Moi, you have to be quicker with that 'publish' button!)... :-)

AlterinG Abhishek said...

what is amazingly interesting is the derivation of MARK Twain!!

that is a ot of info..

and hey ..
just look at them fight!!

Kamaal hai!!
Arrey someone left it in the draft and someone published it!!
so what th learining!!