Where did Samuel Clemens get his pen name, “Mark Twain” from?
A Nautical Term
Samuel Clemens, alias Mark Twain
In 1863, when Clemens was 27, he wrote a humorous travel story and decided to sign his name “Mark Twain.” This name comes from something shouted by crewmen on a boat. To test the depth of the water, a crewman shouts “mark twain!” The crewman is calling for two fathoms, or a depth of 12 feet, which is barely enough for a boat to navigate safely. “Twain” is an old-fashioned way of saying “two” and a fathom is six feet. “Mark Twain” is a “pen name” in the same way that many people in show business use a “stage name.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain, was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. At the age of twenty-one, he became a steamboat pilot.
It was during his years on the river that he chose his pen name. “Mark Twain” is a nautical term meaning the water was 2 fathoms (12 feet) deep, and a safe depth for the steamboat. Clemens first signed his writing with the name in February 1863, as a newspaper reporter in Nevada.