The Guardian has recently published an article about why American publishers sometimes change the titles of books. In fact they don’t only change titles, they will also change names, places and spelling. The writer from The Guardian doesn’t really have an answer to why this happens, but happen it does and can be confusing for library users – and librarians!
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is a good example. It was originally published as Cross Stitch. Then there is The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman which became The Golden Compass, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Looking at these titles, it is hard to understand why they were changed. It is a tricky business though, as often it can look like your favourite author has published a new book only to be met with disappointment when the story starts to feel very familiar!
When a new title is given to a book, our wonderful cataloguers always add an entry to the catalogue record that lets you know that the book has two titles.
Notes: Also published as: Cross stitch. London : Rowan, 1992.
Notes: Originally published as: Northern lights. London : Scholastic, 1995.
And whatever title you type in will take you to the correct book.
I am fascinated by book titles, especially the zany “what were they thinking” offerings. Here is a selection of some of my current favourites.
Huffington Post lists a New Zealand book as having one of their top fifteen most ridiculous titles: the wonderfully rhythmic Come Onshore and We Will Kill and Eat You All. It’s a love story caught in the middle of the cultural collision between Westerners and Maori. Having nailed a great title though, the publishers went all lily-livered and opted for a dreadfully bland blue cover which does nothing at all for the book.
Knitting with Dog Hair is an old favourite of mine – billed as Better a sweater from a dog you know and love than a sheep you’ll never meet. If you love dogs and have a vacuum cleaner, you are well ahead of the pack in this. I’ve missed years of Scottish Terrier sheddings which would, according to the author, have yielded a slightly coarse but spinnable undercoat. I think this activity would have driven me to drink. In which case I could have rejigged the title and called my book Hair of the Dog.
I still wonder at the appeal of British Mousetraps and Their Makers, but this book is regularly borrowed. The cover shows several complicated, scary, medieval looking traps. It makes me wonder if mice of other nationalities would also fall prey to these Proudly British devices.
Finally, when you and your partner tire of the sweetness of the whole baby naming thing, have a palate cleansing look at the outrageous Traditional Molvanian Baby Names. This title sounds normal until you realise that Molvania doesn’t exist (the blurb describes it as just north of Bulgaria and downwind from Chernobyl). This book will provide you with much needed comic ammunition for when the in-laws become antsy about your name choice for their grandchild. Just shove a few of these XYZ and K mouthfuls into the mix and they are sure to get back in line.
Imagine then my delight that this interest in wacky titles is more widespread than I had thought. Bishopdale Library has a running display of some of these offerings. It is great to see rare books getting an airing – and apparently they do attract a lot of attention. At Bishopdale, team members are constantly on the look-out for weird and wacky titles to add to their display. If you’d like to help this darling little Community Library – just add your suggestions below!
I was busy, as librarians often are, returning items one day and to my surprise, I noticed I had returned three DVDs, one right after the other, in the right order, which uncannily mirrored a pretty large chunk of my life so far – all in three movie titles!
We Bought a Zoo encapsulated the child raising years, where at times my kids were monkeys, other times brainless chickens, and the teenage years were more like herding rabid hyenas into a bag.
Look Back in Anger were the divorce years. Bitter and twisted times, I was a wronged woman who wasn’t always kind, nor brimming with forgiveness.
The Spectacular Now is my present life. Well, not always spectacular, but often filled with much fun, love, laughter and music and more than a little dollop of gratitude.
It made me think of other movies or book whose titles could encapsulate a life.
You’ve got to give it to the British, they do excel in the area of naming oddities. Poor folks by the name of Winterbottom, towns with names like Felldownhead and Giggleswick and the like, it’s all highly amusing. So why should it be any different when it comes to book titles?
Bookseller magazine has just announced their shortlist for strangest book titles published in Britain in the previous year. The six shortlisted titles are –
The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais
I have to admit that compared with some of the crazy titles picked out by Joycie and Donna (more here) in earlier posts, I don’t really find these to be standout examples (though for the life of me I’m having trouble coming to grips with that last one). Maybe my “strangeness meter” is just set higher than most people’s, who knows?
Anyway, a winner will be announced on 27 March and will be decided by internet voting. To vote for your favourite go to Bookseller Magazine’s website. For more on this year’s competition read the story in The Telegraph.
Any suggestions of weird but wonderful titles that you’ve come across?
Still, grumbling aside, all these ridiculous titles do present an opportunity for the nerdy or bored….creating your own spoof titles! Have a try you won’t be disappointed. Can you spot the fake title between these two? A cow’s life: the surprising history of cattle and how the Black Angus came to be home on the range by M.R. Montgomery or Cardigans: From the Crimea to Croydon unravelling the fascinating history of a fashion statement by Lee Di Pietro. Tricky eh?
It’s Saturday afternoon and for a bit of light relief you may like this piece of useless information from the Guardian weekly. The quest is on to find the oddest book title in the last 30 years. Here are some of my personal favourites, but if you want to look at the article and the complete list then check this out.
Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice
The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today
Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality
How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art
How to Avoid Huge Ships
American Bottom Archaeology
Highlights in the History of Concrete
Reusing Old Graves
Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service
The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification
The Guardian has just reported the shortlist has been announced for the year’s oddest book titles. Hooray for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. Candidates include the particularly charmingly titled If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs.
Others on the shortlist: Cheese Problems Solved, How to Write a How to Write Book and Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues.
New in our libraries too are some other corkers:
Ma, he sold me for a few cigarettes
Perhaps not one to laugh it as it’s subtitled “a heart-rending memoir”, but the title reminds me of the Monty Python skit when four Yorkshiremen are trying to outdo each other with how bad their lives were: “House? You were lucky to have a HOUSE! We used to live in one room, all hundred and twenty-six of us, no furniture. Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of FALLING!” Continue reading →