Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On on

When I first started this blog I thought it was a good idea to have a standard of titles so that I wouldn’t have to come up with something brilliantly creative every day. A low standard, that is. I realize that titles are important – they are after all the first thing a reader is attracted by, and they will often be the determining factor for whether a potential reader becomes an actual reader (my own blog is a prime example. Aside from my Nobel shenanigans, the post I got the most hits on was the one titled “On the fall of the United States of America”, no doubt attracting lots of people expecting this to be a trashing of the USA). However, for some reason I did not want to give myself the benefit of having excellent titles on my blog posts. Oh, no, not this gal. Instead, I decided to start each and every title in this blog with an “on”.

I believe it was Nick Hornby who once wrote about the troubles of having a preposition as the beginning of a title. One of his most famous books, About a Boy, obviously has this problem. Hornby’s point was that it made talking about the book (grammatically) awkward: “What do you think about About a Boy?”. I have no such fears, as I hardly expect people to talk all that much about my blog posts anyway (and also, “on” is a superior preposition in this respect – “What do you think about 'On giraffes'?” does not make for half as awkward a sentence, though I do agree it’s not exactly Shakespeare). Well, if Hornby, with his inferior preposition could go for it despite his awareness of the consequences; then so could I. Thus I decided to let the prepositions rule my blog, and I was happy with it. For a while.

In the beginning I chose simple titles. “On bunnies”. “On giraffes”. “On freckskulled dimpledunkers”. But then I ran into problems. What do you do when you want to write about giraffes a second time? And what do you do if you one day actually have a great title, but it doesn’t go with an “on”? (And what do you do when you want to write about the preposition “on”? Well, for that one you do a Nick Hornby – hence “On on”…)

Needless to say, I had created a monster. I’ve suffered no small amounts of agony over trying to find a fitting title on all the random topics I’ve covered in the past 59 posts. Rather than making it easy for myself, I made it very, very difficult.

And yet… I was complaining over this to Tami when visiting in Michigan (in my defense, we had already covered a varsity of more interesting topics, and we had both had a few drinks, so I don’t think our friendship suffered terribly despite the fact that it really was a nonsensical rant). Tami’s very constructive suggestion was that I’d drop the on-titles from the beginning of a new month, when the blog archive hide the previous month’s posts to allow for fresh, new posts. This way, no one should notice.

True as this may be, I decided I did not want to take this course. First of all, I would notice (it would feel like cheating. Since I am also the only one that would actually care, this is a very good reason indeed). Secondly, even though I struggle with them, the on-titles still amuse me (it doesn’t take a lot). And finally, I find it fitting to incorporate a preposition in every title I write because prepositions are challenging. When learning a new language, the prepositions are often one of the things you [read: I] struggle with. Both in French and in English I’ve always felt that choosing the right preposition is among the hardest things to do. The reason is probably that more than most types of words, prepositions are “intuitive”. I would, for instance, have a very hard time explaining to you the rules for correctly usage of Norwegian prepositions, while I don’t have the slightest problem using them correctly myself. (It can be argued this is the case for most Norwegian grammar, but I am ignoring this in order to make a point. Deal with it.)

To conclude, I will be sticking with my on-titles, since I happen to believe both restrictions and challenges can be good for creativity. Even if it means boring titles from time to time.


M.J. Nicholls said...

I am in favour of the "on" titles. I like to know EXACTLY what is going to be discussed so I can run away from or run towards each blog post.

You should blog about Hornby and certain '70s rock group next. That would be:

On The The & On About a Boy.

But you can't have two Ons. That's cheating too.

PS I just noticed your emergency post "This just in" breaks the format. Argh!!

Cruella Collett said...

I'm well aware that "This just in" breaks the format, but since I already had written an "on"-post that day (or at least posted one), I figured I was entitled to a little straying from the rules (they are, after all, more guidelines than actual rules...).

I might have to read up on The The and write that post - the title is too good to forego!

Not Hannah said...

I like the "ons," too. It makes me feel like I'm reading something lofty. Like, "Have you read Collet's 'On squirrels and acorns and llamas and ducks?' It's FASCINATING." (And it was!)

Cruella Collett said...

*is lofty* Yay :)

(I'm glad I have people backing me up on the ons. They are here to stay!)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

On titles seems a very good idea to me. Beats trying to come up with meaningful titles everyday and managing only something very trite.

Tundiel said...

I LOVE your 'On' titles, don't ever change them!

In keeping with my scattiness, there are absolutely NO rules when it comes to my own blog titles...

Powdered Toast Man said...

I had no idea about the "on" titles. I wouldn't have noticed. Such determination you have.

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