Sunday, June 2, 2013

Insert Title Here

It is fun when various streams converge (not the Ghostbuster kind that can cause the end of the world).  So, on twitter and on poli sci rumor today, there are threads related to titles of theses and articles and books. 
I have always taken perhaps undeserved pride in the titles for my stuff, but also have some regrets. My dissertation did not have the snappiest title but was descriptive as hell and did not "Bring Back" anything in or "Problematize" so "Supporting Secession or Maintaining Boundaries:
The International Consequences of Ethnic Politics
" is not a bad start.

I probably go for alliteration too much:
  • "The Dual Dynamics of Disintegration"
  • "Inconsistent Irredentism"
  • "Overlooking the Obvious"
  • "Dilemmas of Divorce"
  • "Comparing Caveats"
I have gotten away with some pop culture references only rarely: "Pie Crust Promises and the Sources of Foreign Policy."  Mary Poppins FTW! The strange thing of that one is the second half--the editors wanted FP in the title, but the journal is Foreign Policy Analysis, so, um, duh!

My plays on words and classic phrases have been pretty good, I think:
  • "Is Pandora’s Box Half-Empty or Half-Full?"  
  • "Laissez Fear" which combines Laissez Faire economic policy with ethnic insecurity.
  • The Ties That Divide instead of the ties that bind, which not only illustrated the concept of the book, that ethnic ties can lead to support for secession, but also a cover that did a great job of illustrating the concept.  The subtitle divides the title!  Not my idea. But great graphic design.
  • For Kin or Country instead of "For King or Country."
  • The book I am working on now on Canada and Afghanistan.  Not saying now, but not a maple or moose reference. 
To be clear, I had some fun ones that editors nixed.  "Determining the Sources of Irredentism" should have been "Reuniting: When Does It Feel So Good" from this song.  I really regret never naming at least a conference paper: "Four out of Five Irredentists Agree."  What a waste of a research project, leaving such a great title unused.

I had a running fight with my co-author and editor over: "NATO and Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone" as I wanted the subtitle to be the title and lost.  Easier to people to find NATO and Afghanistan, but I like the other part more.

I must say that the lousiest titles have been tended be those that editors required, such as
Intra-State Conflict, Governments and Security: Dilemmas of Deterrence and AssuranceThe second half is mine, the first half? Yuck.


R. William Ayres said...

You will recall that we had to fight the editors at Columbia over For Kin or Country - but won.

Steve Saideman said...

I didn't until you mentioned it. Of course, they could have been right--the book has not yet gone platinum ....

R. William Ayres said...

You think it would have done better with a boring title? (which, as I recall, is what they wanted...)