On Eating Live Frogs Every Morning

Mark Twain once “said”, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” His observation is hardly true in all cases, and reciting it seems to me like tempting fate. Moreover, it’s the frog who’s actually guaranteed to reach the nadir of its upcoming day in this scenario.

But while this “Mark Twain quote” shows up in many, many self-appointed inspirations for productivity, I’m sorry to have to inform anyone reading this that Mark Twain (…wait for it…) never said it.

The good news is that the real quote appears to be even better. According to Quote Investigator, it’s from a 1790s writer named Nicolas Chamfort. It translates as:

“M. de Lassay, a very indulgent man, but with a great knowledge of society, said that we should swallow a toad every morning, in order to fortify ourselves against the disgust of the rest of the day, when we have to spend it in society.”

Eat a live frog every morning

Photo: Golden Toad, by Charles H. Smith, via Wikipedia.

In short, it has nothing to do with getting things done. It refers to the unpleasantness of dealing with other people.

If this is the source of the “Twain Quote,” it is not about finishing that TPS report or filing your taxes at all. It’s rooted deeply in introversion and/or misanthropy.

To me, the most inspiring thing about this is that the sentiment was kidnapped by glurge commandos, made far less funny, and staple-gunned to probably the MOST generic Lt. Col in their never-said-it army. I think the esteemed Mr. Twain would find himself both amused and irritated by that.

So good morning, everyone. Ketchup with that?

Info & real quote via Quote Investigator.