Wednesday's special Google doodle wished a happy birthday to Mark Twain. The American writer was born 176 years ago. Well, Twain wasn't born then. A fellow named Samuel Clemens was. The pen name "Mark Twain" came many years later.
Twain stands among many great pseudonyms. Some are obviously fake – Vin Diesel and Sting. But others might surprise you – John Wayne and Alan Alda. Here are 30 of the best from books, movies, TV, and music.
While Samuel Clemens' best work came under the name Mark Twain – hence the Tom Sawyer-themed Google doodle – the author went by other names, too. He signed early sketches as "Josh" and sometimes wrote under the name "Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass."
Historians argue over how Clemens decided on his now-famous nom de plume. The most popular story, the one Twain told people, reaches back to Mississippi riverboats. Sailors had to regularly check the depth of rivers to ensure their boats wouldn't scrape bottom. Many used weighted ropes to measure out two fathoms (or six feet). According to Twain, if the "mark" on the line said "twain" (two) fathoms, they would call out "mark twain."
Once Clemens settled on Twain, the name stuck. Even his gravestone says "Samuel Langhorne Clemens" along the top, but then "Mark Twain" in much larger letters just below.
Many other authors have adopted pen names. Among them:
|Pen name||Claim to fame||Birth name|
|Stan Lee||Co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, and other Marvel superheroes||Stanley Martin Lieber|
|Dr. Seuss||Author of "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Cat in the Hat"||Theodor Seuss Geisel|
|Lewis Carroll||Author of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"||Charles Lutwidge Dodgson|
|J. K. Rowling||Author of the Harry Potter series||Joanne Rowling (she as no middle name, nor K initial)|
|Joseph Conrad||Author of "Heart of Darkness"||Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski|
|Voltaire||Great Enlightenment thinker and author of "Candide"||François-Marie Arouet|
|Robert Jordan||Author of the popular fantasy series "The Wheel of Time"||James Oliver Rigney, Jr.|
|George Orwell||Author of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and "Animal Farm"||Eric Arthur Blair|
|Ayn Rand||Author of "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged"||Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum|
|Mark Twain||Author of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"||Samuel Langhorne Clemens|
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