Wednesday, August 13, 2008



Dirk Obbink, "Vergil's De pietate: From Ehoiae to Allegory in Vergil, Philodemus, and Ovid," in David Armstrong et al., edd. Vergil, Philodemus, and the Augustans (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004), pp. 175-209 (at 205):
As Mark Twain said, "You can derive Moses from Mississippi by substituting 'o' for the 'i,' and 'es' for 'issippi.'"
Obbink's article is dense with footnotes, but there is no citation for this quotation from Mark Twain. It is the sort of thing one wishes Twain had said, but did he really do so?

The source may be an attack on Fitzedward Hall by Richard Grant White, "Punishing a Pundit," The Galaxy: A Magazine of Entertaining Reading XVI (July-Dec. 1878), p. 783:
That the verb conjecture is formed by adding ure to conject, who could venture to say but the man who would derive church from ἐκκλησία? True, there are two k's in church (kirk) and two kappas in ἐκκλησία, "and there is salmons in both." Such a formation of conjecture (unavoidably from conjecturo, or conjectural through the French conjecturer) rivals the feat of the etymologist who derived Moses from Middletown by the simple plan of taking off the iddletown and putting on the oses.
Mark Twain also wrote for The Galaxy, but, so far as I can tell, he is not the source of the quotation attributed to him by Obbink.

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