There is always something interesting to learn.
Whilst browsing the latest catalogue from The Folio Society, my attention was drawn to the new Folio edition of Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain.
I hadn’t previously known that Mark Twain (whose other well known books include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) was a pseudonym; after all, there are many American names which sound unusual to the English ear. Further investigation revealed that his real name was Samuel Clemens.
There are two quoted possibilities for the origin of his pseudonym. The author claimed that it came from the time spent on riverboats. In order to test the depth of water, a weighted line was let out into the water. A depth of twelve feet was considered safe and the crewman would shout out ‘mark twain’.
However, there are some who maintain that his name came from time spent in the bars. On each occasion he ordered a double, he would instruct the barman to ‘mark twain’ on his account.
Either way, the knowledge will no doubt provide for a few moments of intellectual chat around the occasional dinner table.
Some of my favourite quotes attributed to Twain are:
- Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
- Golf is a good walk spoilt.
- It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.
- Respect your superiors, if you have any.
- I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.
- Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.