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I am trying to find a suitable title for a short video series I'm doing. There are two main subjects to this series. Let's say that these are knives and general cutlery, for the sake of this question – these aren't the actual subjects, but they do share a similar relationship between themselves.

I'd like the title to suggest the existence of a narrative, or story, without being explicit. Additionally, I'd like the title to give a sense of old, historical.

For these reasons, I have been thinking about Of knives and cutlery. I think there are multiple examples in literature and art of this title form that starts with "Of". However, at the moment, I cannot recally any in English1. Further, I'm unsure about how this sounds. Would this title provide the suggestions I mentioned – notably, would it suggest narrative, and also give a sense of historical due to its old-fashoned form?


1 For example, being a native Italian, I can recall Beccaria's Dei Delitti e delle Pene. Normally, the preposition Dei would be translated as Of. However, this title is generally adapted to On Crime and Punishment. Being a treatise, I agree that On is more fitting in English, because I believe it suggests an analysis more than a narrative (in Italian, this would correspond to Sui delitti e sulle pene, equally fitting). My reasoning is that, in general, Of gives more sense of narration than analysis. Am I correct on this assumption?

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  • And miss the "flying daggers" reference?!
    – Stef
    Feb 9 at 23:43
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    I appreciate the replies, however this suggestion is not quite helpful and I'd like to keep the focus on the question at hand. I'll delete my comments under here to reduce the noise that this conversation has generated, I'd appreciate if you could do the same.
    – alelom
    Feb 11 at 22:24

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I must vehemently disagree with Divizna. A title of the form Of [a topic] is not typical for fairy tales at all. Here is a list of fairy tales. None of their titles begin with Of....

Rather it was one of the typical forms of the title for a treatise or scholarly work. For example, most of the essays of Francis Bacon being with Of... (Of Truth, Of Death, Of Marriage and Single Life etc.).

The full form of this title is A Treatise of..., as in A Treasise of Human Nature by David Hume. That is, the title Of... can always be understood to be a shortened version of A Treatise Of....

Other similar title forms are An Enquiry Concerning... (with the short form Concerning...) or A Treatise On... (with the short form On...).

This type of title was likely formed after Latin titles beginning in De ... ("Of ...") such as De Optimo Genere Oratorum by Cicero or De spectaculis by Tertullian. Until the 16th and 18th centuries most scholarly works were still written in Latin and often had titles beginning with De...

So, a title beginning with Of... signals a scholarly treatise. When a fictional work such as Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham uses that kind of title, it may allude to this scholarly usage.

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    According to Wikipedia, Of Human Bondage is taken from a section title in Spinoza's 'Ethics', so it is the scholarly sense. Of Mice and Men is from the Burns poem 'To a Mouse' - The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley. Feb 11 at 14:08
  • @KateBunting I see. Thank you. Edited.
    – Ben
    Feb 11 at 15:57
  • Thanks for this answer. You make a strong argument reminding of latin treatises and the likely origin of this title style. Summing up to clarify: you believe that, even if it is still sometimes used for narrative too, a title starting with Of primarily reminds you of scholarly analytical works, rather than fictional, narrative works that have a "scholarly aspect". Correct? From this perspective, would you suggest that Quenta Silmarillion's chapter titles also were chosen to remind of some scholarly aspect?
    – alelom
    Feb 11 at 18:13
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    I would say so. Although fictional, The Silmarillion purports to be a formal historical work. Feb 12 at 9:10
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One fairly famous work that's originally written in English is the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Another place where you can find this style of naming are the chapters (stories) of Quenta Silmarillion (the largest section in the Silmarillion) by J. R. R. Tolkien.

So if you're asking if it's possible, definitely. It's a style that's probably most reminiscent of traditional fairy tales to a reader.

If you're going for a very old times vibe, then it seems you'll be doing exactly what you want to with this. It's going to kind of stand out and maybe look a little funny, but that isn't a bad thing when it comes to piqueing the audience's interest.

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  • Thank you for the examples and the well-reasoned confirmation. Just for completeness, are you a native English speaker? Not that it matters much, it's mostly out of curiosity.
    – alelom
    Feb 9 at 12:38

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