When creating titles becomes distressful [Archives:2008/1159/Community]

May 29 2008

By: Mohammed Ahmed Sa'eed Al-Kaladi
[email protected]

The titles of books and publications play nearly – but not exactly – the same role as names for newborn babies because an individual requires a name to be known by and which becomes an integral part of his identity throughout his life.

Books also require specific titles that gain the power of science, status and regularity. Entitling books and written works is more difficult than naming people because in the case of humans, names don't necessarily denote personality traits and they aren't maps of one's core or the reason for his or her identity. Thus, human names are nothing more than symbols distinguishing people from each other.

To the contrary, book titles not only are significant, they also are concise guidelines providing access and a description of the book's content.

Furthermore, entitling a poem or any literary work is more difficult than entitling scientific books and research. It's a simple matter to entitle a book of history, geography, philosophy or physics according to the book's topic and its speciality, whereas it's rather difficult to find a title summarizing a musical piece, a portrait or a collection of poems.

In ancient Arabic literature, the distress of choosing titles was solved by simply relating the poem to the poet, such as the “Diwan Al-Mutanabi,” or relating the theme of the poem to the poet, like “Hamasat Abi Tammam” (The Enthusiasm of Abi Tammam).

The style of the poems also can be related to the poet, as in “Luzomiyyat Abi Al-Alaa Al-Ma`arri.” This is a simple way to do this because all of the poems are very similar in theme, idea and style.

However, such method of giving titles has become near impossible as poets began publishing their works in anthologies where their poems often don't carry a single idea or a specific topic. It's easier selecting an appropriate title for a single poem focusing on a single idea, whereas a poet has difficulty finding one title encompassing a collection of poems, which are different in their themes and sense, because they can't be absorbed into a single phrase.

In English literature, the titles of some literary works have been changed even after the author's death. For instance, Jane Austen's masterpiece, “Pride and Prejudice,” previously was entitled, “First Impression.”

Thus, the saying, “You can tell a book by its cover (title),” isn't always correct. For example, some writers couldn't find titles reflecting the beauty and wonder of their works, whereas other books, which could be considered less valuable, receive beautiful and interesting titles. Such titles – which likely come about by chance – can smooth the way to fame for these books.

To sum up, writers shouldn't become distressed about the titles they choose for their works because readers eventually will become familiar with their titles, just as they previously became familiarized with the names of the authors.