Rob McMonigal writes:
> For years, I have only heard one origin for Samuel
> Clemens' pen name, Mark Twain.  This was, of course, the Mississippi River
> origin. However, in his book, "On the Road with Mark Twain in California
> and Nevada", George Williams III states that the true origin of the name
> was > from his telling a bartender in Nevada to "Mark Twain"  on his
> tab. Which of these origins is true?
Quoting Justin Kaplan, "Mark Twain and his World" (London, 1974), p.53-54
On 3 February 1863, six months after Clemens joined the *Enterprise*, a
new comic name and identity ... made its first recorded appearance. A
humorous travel letter to the *Enterprise*, datelined Carson City, was
signed, 'Yours dreamily, Mark Twain.' Years later Clemens was to say that
he had borrowed the name, in tribute and amends, from an old pilot he had
once satirized in print, 'Isiah Sellers, who used to write river news over
it for the New Orleans *Picayune*, but no one has ever been able to
confirm that account or remove the powerful suspicion that Clemens either
invented or misremembered the story. Moreover, the taditional belief that
'Mark Twain' derived from the leadsman's term for two fathoms has even
been disputed by evidence which suggests that the name originated not on
the Mississippi but in Nevada, where it may have been associated by
saloonkeepers with a common practice of marking up two drinks on credit.
Wolf Harranth
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