Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Day 60: A Small, Yet Profound, Observation on Titles

The Wifey was reading recipes to me tonight.

That does sound a bit weird, doesn't it? Anyway, she decided to read some recipes to me for meals that we are going to have this week. Get ready to have your mouth water because here they are:
  • Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Saltimbocca with Sauteed Spinach & Garlic-Sage Sauce
  • Pan-Seared Salmon with Honeydew-Cucumber Salsa & Watercress Salad
  • Curried Jamaican Beef & Collard Greens with Spicy Red Chili & Creamy Polenta
Freaking mouth-watering, right? Now, trying reading them aloud as if you just made it yourself and you're presenting to the table. That all sounds amazing doesn't it, except for maybe the watercress salad? But other than the food itself, what stands out is how extremely long and detailed the titles of these meals are. 

I remember a time when I was a kid and I asked what was for dinner and the response was "Pot Roast," or "Roasted Chicken," or, because we're Italian, "Pasta w/ Meat Sauce." 

Simple. Basic. Boring. And still possibly delicious. But subtle.

Now let's consider another example. One of the key lessons I learned in writing big papers or even trying to write blog posts was not to make the title too long. Titles for writing have to be simple, basic, yet still be extremely delicious to the reader. Some of the book titles of my favorite books include Gilead, Atlas Shrugged, 1984, Gone with the Wind, The Intelligent Investor and so on. 

But do you know what the original title of Darwin's The Origin of Species is? In all it's controversial glory is the lengthy On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Another example comes from one of my favorite writers and men in general, Jonathan Edwards, who, in 1737 wrote a very different essay than Darwin's work, called A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton. Try to do that in one breath. This was the way of titles back in the day. I wish we can say they were like movie previews today where you felt like the title gave away the whole book and you didn't need to read it, but that isn't the case. They were just long. 

But I wonder if they were long for the same reason recipe titles are long today. I wonder if that was the marketing tactic for books to make them more compelling to read, to make your mouth water just as you were finishing the last word of...the title? And I wonder if there will ever come a point in time when recipe titles will pack a ton of punch by just being short and to the point, yet compelling. 

"What are we having tonight?"


"What? That's mind blowing!"

Ponder that.


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