“Feelin’ Froggy? Then Eat A Live Frog,” Mark Twain?

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22851 – 984

Here’s the haps:

I was visiting someone’s blog a while ago and they quoted Mark Twain as saying, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Now, I knew that phrase had been around for some time and was used by business/management/time management teachers in many of the various classes/books/seminars that wind up being the buzzword du jour in corporate circles. The point of the most common usage is that you should do the job or task you really don’t want to do, first, then everything is easier the rest of the day.

I never gave much thought to its origins, just taking it for granted that it was an old folk saying from somewhere but when it was attributed to Twain, I began to wonder. It just didn’t seem to fit with my limited knowledge. It just didn’t sound right. And why was I just now hearing this attribution?

So I started to look around. I found it on quite a few quotation sites attributed to Mark Twain but with no reference, like, “In a letter to So and So at such and such a time” or “From Tom Sawyer Abroad” or anything. I then added, “When did Mark Twain say…” to my search and rediscovered a favorite site that somehow had slipped through the cracks. Garson O’Toole’s website, Quote Investigator, is one of the most thoroughly researched sites out there and if you are interested in this kind of thing it can become a time-suck, it’s that interesting. You can search it several ways or even just browse it by the name of a famous person. His citations and references are exemplary and I knew that when I found his article from 2013 titled Eat a Live Frog Every Morning, and Nothing Worse Will Happen to You the Rest of the Day I would find out who said what and when. I was not disappointed. I recommend you read his article for the full story but the saying was first written by French writer Nicolas Chamfort in the 1790s. In a newspaper article in 1988, someone said, “I think it was Mark Twain who said…” and that was that.

32 Comments

  1. One has to be careful with quotes on the internet. It was George Washington who wisely said, “The internet is full of many false and unverified quotes.”

    • Well…with something like that it would be best to feed it to me first, not saying what it was, then asking if I liked it, then telling me what it was. the name sounds…unappealing…to me.

  2. Such a great advice. I usually do the opposite since I tend to procrastinate on the things I don’t want to do. LOL. I guess it is good to force oneself to do the difficult one first…

  3. I’ve eaten frog and it’s really quite good. So if that’s the worst thing that will happen to me It’s going to be a great day. As far as the quotes go I prefer to not know In my writing misquotong is so much more fun

  4. The lack of cuss words would be a big red flag to me that it wasn’t Twain’s. 😉 I love the Quote Investigator site. I always try diligently to track down the original source of the ones I post.

  5. Tracking quotations is hard. I wonder if anyone ever said that. Or will everyone start attributing it to me?

    By the way, I must confess that the name of the source you cite will drive me nuts because there is no such thing as “a quote”, unless we include jub estimates. There is, however, “a quotation”. Alas, this grumpy grammarian is grumpy because this is a lost cause.

  6. I like the frog quote but I especially love your due diligence in tracking down the origins. I am often frustrated in trying to get attributions correct and am so often annoyed at the misinformation that is so casually spread. Luckily you have a great knack for knowing words and where they come from.

    • Thank you for your kind words. It is annoying and comes from every angle depending on who paid the most for their SEO that week. That may sound a bit cynical but…

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