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Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions:

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ITALIAN GRAMMAR

I had noticed, in other foreign languages, that verbs are bred in families, and that the members of each family have certain features or resemblances that are common to that family and distinguish it from the other families--the other kin, the cousins and what not. I have noticed that this family-mark is not usually the nose or the hair, so to speak, but the tail--the Termination,--and that these tails are quite definitely differentiated; insomuch that an expert can tell a Pluperfect from a Subjunctive by its tail as easily and as certainly as a cowboy can tell a cow from a horse by the like process, the result of observation and culture. I should explain that I am speaking of legitimate verbs, those verbs which in the slang of the grammar are called Regular. There are others--I am not meaning to conceal this; others called Irregulars, born out of wedlock, of unknown and uninteresting parentage, and naturally destitute of family resemblances, as regards all features, tails included. But of these pathetic outcasts I have nothing to say.
- "Italian with Grammar"

Italian dictionary

Illustration courtesy of
Dave Thomson

I cannot speak the language. I am too old now to learn how, also too busy when I am busy, and too idolent when I am not; wherefore some will imagine that I am having a dull time of it. But it is not so. The 'help' are all natives; they talk Italian to me. I answer in English. I do not understand them, they do not understand me; consequently no harm is done and everybody is satisfied. In order to be just and fair I throw in an Italian word when I have one.
- quoted in San Francisco Call, April 7, 1904, p. 8.

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