Friday, 29 November 2013

Colonoscopy: Why Titular Colons are More Prevalent in Modern Literature and How it Might Affect Classic Novels

Quick commiserations to Ed Hawkins, who this week just missed out on the 2013 William Hill Sports Book of the Year (see earlier blog) - but the purpose of this posting is to pick up on something else I noticed in this year's longlist.

It struck me that it's remarkable how modern books, and modern sports books in particular, rely on the use of a titular colon. In fact, five of the six books on the shortlist contain further explanation within their titles, and the same is true of 14 of the 17 on the longlist.

From what would ultimately be crowned the winner, Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang by Jamie Reid, to Hawkins' own Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld (which contains a colon but omits any other form of punctuation!), it seems that using a colon has become the norm.

Although it's by no means a new phenomenon - look no further than Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge: The Life and Death of a Man of Character - what has been labelled by some as 'colin-isation' or 'title-rrhea' would certainly seem to be a growing trend.

Perhaps it's in part due to a greater acceptance of academic works, where the colon has long been more prevalent, or the greater competition for book sales and the resulting honed marketing efforts and use of terms that will more readily appear in search engines. Perhaps it's merely that the words that appear after the colon tend to be forgotten as time passes, as is the case with The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Whatever, the increasing use of titular colons has prompted some pretty witty reworkings of classic novels using the new format. Among my favourites I've found are The Grapes of Wrath, which becomes California Dreamin': Traveling Cheap in the Middle of an Economic Downturn, and Romeo and Juliet, which becomes The Teen Sex and Suicide Epidemic: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Family. You can find more here if interested.

Is it something to get worked up about? Probably not. But I wonder if, subconsciously at least, there is anything in the fact that the vast majority of the 100 books I selected for my challenge were lacking in colons?

No comments:

Post a Comment