Fathom That

In Samuel Clemens’s book, Life on the Mississippi, he explains that he took the pseudonym from the senior riverboat captain Isaiah Sellers, who would take note of practical information about the river, and would sign them “MARK TWAIN.”   Clemens subsequently wrote these were published – with some of Mr. Seller’s descriptive phrases – by a local newspaper (although historians have been unable to actually confirm the truth of Clemens’ assertions). What is known, is that Clemens wrote a parody and published it in another New Orleans newspaper, the New Orleans Daily Crescent.  According to Clemens, Sellers was so upset that not only did he never again submit his  notes for publication, but he never signed ‘Mark Twain’ to anything again.  ‘Mark Twain’ also happens to be the term used by riverboat captains and crew for water that is two fathoms (12 feet) deep – important information for a steamboat, since it can mean the difference between safe passage or being trapped or worse: sunk in shallow water.