The Importance of Book Titles, Part 4: Puntastic Titles and Manga Word Salads
February 01, 2013
This will be our last blog post looking at the art of effective book titling. There are so many other methods (Character Name And The Noun Phrase, The Revenge of the Sequel, etc.) that I will refer you to the wonderful world of TVTropes.org for an exhaustive look at titling. We will wrap things up with some titling methods specific to certain genres and media.
While the pun has been called the lowest form of humor, its use has certainly been popular for coming up with catchy book titles. In particular, some genres (cozy mystery, paranormal romance/urban fantasy, and comic fantasy) have so taken to the form that it’s often hard to find a title in those genres that isn’t a pun. Allow me to pun-tificate and show you some examples.
The Cozy Mysteries
- The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. (Last Scene Alive)
- The Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries by Diane Mott Davis. (Sticks and Scones)
- The Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries and Den of Antiquity series by Tamar Myers. (The Crepes of Wrath; Monet Talks)
- The Meg Langslow Mysteries by Donna Andrews. (We’ll Always Have Parrots)
- The Trash ‘n’ Treasures series by Barbara Allan. (Antiques Roadkill)
The Paranormal Romances/Urban Fantasies
- The Esther Diamond series by Laura Resnick (Polterheist)
- The Hollows series by Kim Harrison. (The Outlaw Demon Wails)
- The Enchanted, Inc. series by Shanna Swendson. (Don’t Hex with Texas)
- The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher (Fool Moon)
The Comic Fantasies
- The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. (The Fifth Elephant)
- The Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series by Jasper Fforde. (First Among Sequels; The Big Over Easy)
- The Xanth series by Piers Anthony (Stork Naked)
- The Myth Adventures series by Robert Asprin (Hit or Myth)
Westerners aren't the only people looking for ways to create catchy titles. The strange titles of many manga (and their associated anime) are often assumed to be the product of poor translation. I would argue that this is not the case. Rather, coolness appears to be the primary concern of many manga titles, as the titles often have little or nothing to do with the actual story. Just toss some cool words together, mix well, and BAM! Manga Word Salad!
- xxxHOLiC – This manga has absolutely nothing to do with erotica addiction, being the story of a high school student plagued by visions of spirits. But, you have to agree that the title really grabs your attention!
- D.Gray-man – Is there a male character named D.Gray? No. Is there a Gray-man named D.? No. But hey, it sounds awesome.
- Ultra Maniac- Expectation: psycho killer on the rampage. Reality: tennis player and trainee witch in middle school.
- Fullmetal Alchemist - Alchemists are pretty cool. But you know what’s cooler? FULLMETAL alchemists, that’s what. SHOW ME YOUR ALCHEMIST FACE!
- Full Metal Panic! - If full metal makes one noun cooler, it must make ALL nouns cooler!
- Strawberry Panic! - Or maybe Panic! makes things cooler. Just see Panic! at the Disco for proof. If they’re still cool, that is.
- Strawberry Marshmallow –Well, strawberries and marshmallows do make things delicious, and that’s pretty cool.
If one or two cool words are good, MORE must be better!
- Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge – Actually, on second thought, this is somewhat descriptive. If someone’s coming after me with a chainsaw, I get negative happy too.
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross – Way better than an ordinary dimension fortress. Also known as a blanket fort.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion – Popular in the late 1980s to early 1990s, now supplanted by the Earth Tone Genesis Evangelion.
- All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku-Nuku – Don’t limit yourself with a single function cultural cat girl.
- Eureka Seven: Gravity Boys and Lifting Girls – This sounds like some sort of Newtonian physics soap opera.
- Princess Ninja Scroll Tenka Muso – This may well be the perfect manga title.
I mentioned in the opening the wonderful world of TVTropes.org. I warn you, enter TVTropes at your own risk. You are likely to emerge dazed, wondering exactly what just happened to the past several hours of your life. You have just emerged from an Internet Rabbit Hole. We will take a look at this phenomenon in our next blog post.