March 05, 2005

You Ain't Haydn Nothin'

Amandalucia at We are Free Morphemes followed the links from Geoff Nunberg's recent Annals of Ambiguity post, and she has some editorial advice for presenters at the Eastern Psychological Association meeting:

Have these people not heard of the "Short Catchy Phrase: (colon) Longer Explanatory Phrase Detailing the Study" school of paper titling?

Her illustrative examples include (her addition in italics): "You Ain't Haydn Nothin': Gender Differences in Evaluations of Classical Musical Performances".

There's an opportunity for some historical sociostylistics here. Conference programs all the way back to the founding of scholarly and scientific organizations are available in libraries, and many of them are on line now. When did the CatchyPhrase: ExplanatoryPhrase model get started? In what fields? How did it spread? And what about variants such as DescriptivePhrase: CuteQuote, or ExplanatoryPhrase: AdditionalExplanatoryPhrase?

For particular examples, see for instance the program of the AHA's 2005 meeting, whose first few sessions include these colonated titles:

Existential Thought and Culture in Transnational Perspective: Authenticity, Morality, and Murder (session title)
"Dionysian Enlightenment": Walter Kaufmann and the American Nietzsche
Dasein, Death, and Dope: Martin Heidegger’s Lost Place in the History of American Existentialism
"Many Great Deliverances": Boston King’s Atlantic Revolution
Revisiting the Victorian "Crisis of Faith": The Transformation of the Religious Impulse in Physics, Feminist Literature, and Art (session title)
The Modern Art Museum as Sacred Space: Reformers, Aesthetes, and the Crisis of Faith
New Women, New Religion: Feminism and the Victorian Crisis of Faith
In Search of Epistemological Certainty in the Wake of the Victorian “Crisis of Faith”: Mind, God, and Meaning in the Physics of Sir Oliver Lodge
Racial Anthropology: The Galton Society and its Effects on American Physical and Cultural Anthropology
The Strange Death of Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology: The Case of Roswell Hill Johnson
Eugenics, Biomeritocracy, and the Reconstruction of Democracy: The Case of the High School Textbook, 1914–48
Defective or Disabled? Southern Physicians, Eugenics, and the Therapeutic Relationship, 1890–1930
War and the Modern City: Community Building and Urban Reconstruction during World War II (session title)
Global War, Local Battles: World War II and the Growth of Compton, California
Working-Class Utopia: Community Centers, Neighborhood Units, and American Architecture during World War II
Disease, Health, and the State in the Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century United States: Charting the Colonial Connections (session title)
"The First Duty of a Citizen Is to Be Healthy": Health Education and U.S. Imperialism in the Early Twentieth Century
"Loathsome Necromancy": Health and Power around Puget Sound, 1967–90
"Suitable Care of the African When Afflicted With Insanity": Race and the Insane Asylum in the Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century United States

There are some nice examples of the pattern Amandalucia referenced: "Dasein, Death, and Dope: Martin Heidegger’s Lost Place in the History of American Existentialism"; "'Loathsome Necromancy': Health and Power around Puget Sound, 1967–90". However, others suggest a more elaborate taxonomy of colon-divided titles, still to be catalogued by some enterprising meta-scholar. There's plenty of data out there.

[Update: I should mention that I've known several academics -- at least one linguist and one philosopher -- who were willing to do several months of research in order have a good reason to use a clever pun in a paper title. The Red Queen said "First the sentence, then the evidence". These scholars followed the maxim "First the title, then the evidence". In both cases, the goal is a useful source of motivation, I guess. ]


Posted by Mark Liberman at March 5, 2005 07:21 AM