m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Non-constituent Titles

From Language Log: two posts on non-constituent titles, one that explains the term and one with further examples from the wild, which answer the unasked question “What constitutes a title?”

The short answer is, a brief, perhaps poetical, constituent phrase. Here Wikipedia’s definition of constituent:

In syntactic analysis, a constituent is a word or a group of words that functions as a single unit within a hierarchical structure.

Example of constituent titles (from the first link) include The Bourne Identity, Handbook of Amazonian Languages, Enigma, On the Beach, etc. The rare non-constituent titles include If You, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller, and Dancer From the Dance. Then there are the ambiguous cases, like The Stars My Destination and The Fire Next Time, perhaps the most poetical of all.