A Conversation for Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain

How Mark Twain got his name

Post 1

bludragon, aka the Dragon Queen of Damogran

The story of how Mark Twain got his name is interesting, and since it isn't in the article, I hope you don't mind if I add it here.

As noted, among the other colorful exploits of his life, Sam Clemens worked on Mississippi riverboats. Because of the constantly changing channels, currents, and rate of flow of 'Ole Man River' it was necessary for riverboat pilots to frequently take soundings of the depth of the river so as to not run aground.

Taking soundings consisted of someone leaning over the bow of the riverboat and hanging a knotted rope down to the riverbottom. The depth of the river was estimated by how many knots on the rope were submerged.

The sailor would then call out the 'soundings' up to the pilot in the wheelhouse. If one knot was showing, the sailor would call out "By the mark: one!" If two knots were showing, the sailor called out "By the mark: twain!"

He was so taken with life on the river, that when Mr. Clemens wrote, he selected this sounding call as his 'nom-de-plume'.

How Mark Twain got his name

Post 2

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

"Mark Twain" means "two fathoms," so we know exactly how deep a literary personage he was smiley - winkeye

He used some other pseudonyms early in his career: W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, and Josh.

How Mark Twain got his name

Post 3

marvthegrate LtG KEA

In a biography of Sam Clemens called "Mark Twain on the Mississippi" a possible explaination is offered as to how he came to use Mark Twain as his pseudonym. When he was a riverboat pilot his crew caught a young stowaway and brought him to Clemens for punishment. He asked the boy some questions and while this is going on his "cub" pilot comes into the pilot house and tells Clemens "The sounding has been done, mark twain". and then the boy called Clemens Mr. Twain. It kind of stuck after that.

How Mark Twain got his name

Post 4

Chanti ("Oh my god, it's alive!")

These are very nice-sounding stories, but I once read that there was originally another journalist using the pseudonym "Mark Twain" in his newspaper column, and that Samuel Clemens pinched it off him...

How Mark Twain got his name

Post 5

BigAl Patron Saint of Left Handers Keeper of the Glowing Pickle and Monobrows

Well, I recall being told the first version (Post 1) as a schoolboy, 40 years ago.

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