Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Does Size Matter?

Is it the size of the boat, or is it the motion of the ocean? Do all good things come in small packages, or should we go big or go home? Is it really the little things that make a difference, or should we look at the big picture?

Obviously, we are terribly conflicted about size in this country. On the one hand, we boast the Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger, but on the other hand, we spend $40 billion a year on diets. On the one hand, we say that we like our men tall, dark and handsome, yet on the other hand, Justin Bieber.

Our ambivalence about size is nowhere more clearly reflected than in our titles.

It seems as though the “bigger is better” proponents insisted that we keep the small words in titles lowercase, and the “less is more” supporters were like, “Hey, that’s not fair!”

So, they compromised. Some small words in titles are capitalized and some are not.

For example,

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

“With a Little Help from My Friends”

So, what’s the deal? Why is the capitalized if it only has three letters, but from isn’t and it has four? Why is in lowercased but my is capitalized, yet they both only have two letters?

I know, I know. Compromises are always disappointing- like nonfat ice cream.

Well, first of all, all words are capitalized if they begin or end a title- no matter which ones they are. But, if the following words are embedded in a title, they are not capitalized.

• Articles (a, an, the)

Dream a Little Dream

• FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

The Elves and the Shoemaker

• Prepositions of four or fewer letters (in, on, to, by, with, from, for, of, with)

Big Trouble in Little China

All of the other small words are capitalized when they are used in a title, like As, Is, My, Am, I, Me, You.

And, now on to the next issue: Do good things come to those who wait, or does the early bird get the worm?


Palindrome said...

Both the early bird gets the worm but only if he waits for it to peek out of the ground. :P

Boonsong said...

Why is it that you only hear men claim that size is unimportant?
Your opening paragraph is tremendous. Great post. Thanks.

All the best, Boonsong

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Great post! Titles are so confusing sometimes, I always just thought it was a question of, "well, what looks best?" I guess I'm wrong. :)
And the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. mwahahaha!

James Garcia Jr said...

When I saw the title of the post, my first thought was: "She's not going there again!"
I love the way you weave your posts. Well done! Thanks for the "Big Trouble in Little China" reference. I love that film! I shouldn't, I know. I just can't help it!
Take care.

The Invisible Seductress said...

Great post!!!! I need an editor...smiling...

Wendy Ramer said...

Palindrome said it perfectly! Often both are true. That is the paradox of life.

Jill Elizabeth said...

Talk about grammar scares: I think it's noted in the Chicago Manual of Style that "Justin Bieber" and "men" cannot appear in the same sentence :)

notesfromnadir said...

I've always thought that about those companies offering huge burgers and meals and then there's the penance of the diet food that's offered.

Jill's comment made me burst out laughing -- so true! :)

But thank you for illustrating this about articles & what needs to be capitalized.

kathryn said...

Great post! I believe that the early bird is sleep deprived and should take a nap in the general vicinity of the worm. Then, when the worm (who is a known night owl) finally pops his head up, **POW!** he's brunch.

This way, the bird can be early but doesn't need a lot of patience.

Christiejolu said...


I loved this post...I am a patience type person(Or lazy) and I hate getting up early....So While I can see how the early bird would get teh worn I would way rather relax and wait for the good thing....

Talli Roland said...

Great post! Yeah, I get confused by the little words in titles too. Sometimes they just look wrong in lower case, but then... somewhere inside of me knows it's not right to have them upper case.

Mary Aalgaard said...

It's all about the waiting. Sorry to say...

Millions Of Atoms Man said...

Any post with "Big Trouble in Little China" contained prominently is hereby elected to my "Post Hall of Fame" (under construction...somewhere).

I enjoy the minutiae of language (and words with "iae" at the end) so I am now a follower, as I most often am in life.

crysy92 said...

Sweet! I have had this question in mind forever. Thank You.