What’s in a name (or a title)?

I refuse to use the common name of a favourite perennial. Calling it Great Masterwort doesn’t do justice to its delicate beauty. I prefer the botanical name, Astrantia Major. Its attractive leaves are some of the earliest to push through the winter-hardened soil and its exquisite blooms and seed pods last longer than anything else in our garden.

Astrantia major is native to Europe and is hardy here to Zone 6. This particular variety is “Sunningdale Variegated”. Its jewel-like blooms may be pink or white in colour, “each blossom an umbel of tiny flowers, framed by a collar of papery bracts.” It likes the dappled shade in our woodland garden and grows to about 60 cm.

(Please click to enlarge once or twice, if you would like to see more detail.)

I love it, but I really hate its name! If the nursery staff had recommended I buy Masterwort, I would probably have ignored the suggestion. Fortunately, I was shown a plant before I was told its name.

This says to me that what title we place on our novels can influence potential readers, regardless of the story’s appeal. Buyers have to get past the title before they pick a book off the shelf, before they read the back cover blurb, or carry it to the cash register.

What do  you think? Does the title affect whether or not you will pick up or buy a book?

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8 thoughts on “What’s in a name (or a title)?

  1. Laura Best says:

    Certainly an appealing title will interest me in taking a second look. I do think a title is important. If it wasn’t we could call it any boring thing we want and it wouldn’t make a difference. The cover itself has been known to influence me as well. On the flip side it can turn me off and make me not want to read it. It’s interesting the titles given some books. Sometimes we have to wonder why it was chosen in the first place.

    Beautiful photos!

  2. Shari Green says:

    I’m definitely influenced by a book’s title, and I imagine I’ve bypassed some gems when I’m browsing, just because the title didn’t appeal.

    Lovely close-up of the “astrantia major”! It so doesn’t deserve to have “wort” in its name, lol.

  3. Yes, it has an effect, but sometimes the most delightful things lie under the most horrible covers-so I reserve all judgements until I investigate all angles and get all the info! I had one incident where I was reading a book with a title that was misleading about what was inside, and was judged by it….a Margaret Atwood book, without knowing the author they thought it was about the occult. It was rather amusing to see all the presumptions displayed, when they were so opposite and off-based to what actually was in the book! I thought, though, that there was great thought about the authors title, there seemed to always be a hidden quirk-which was part of the fun, and I wouldn’t have changed it-despite how others might have read it.
    There is a lot in the name!

  4. Carol says:

    Thanks for your comments today. I’m sure I’ve passed up some good reading because the titles, like some covers, don’t appeal to me. I assume the author’s or publisher’s intent is to link the title with something significant in the story, but since I haven’t read the story at that point, an odd phrase out of context can be misleading. I’d say that speaks to the importance of choosing those words carefully!

  5. Carol, the old saying of “a rose is a rose” does not always apply. Sometimes a rose is a cactus or a field of daffodills … but yes … I so agree about titles. It is the first mental connection we attempt to find with a new story … the title, the cover, the flap and the first pages. If the title is something that turns me off … I may not get to the flap or the first page. Titles are so important that pubishers pay their marketing departments to research what do call each book. So the title we think is a perfect fit may be discarded if a marketing expert says it should be called otherwise. Loved the flowers and I agree … if I heard that name I’d think of a tangle of weeds not the lovely bloom you showed us :)

  6. joylene says:

    I am visual. I’m attracted to those 3 decker chocolate cakes and am always disgusted if they taste terrible. How can something look that good and be dry and tasteless? Titles? They’re like those cakes. I’m attracted to a smart title, but I’ve learned to look for more than just a pretty cover and catchy label. I cheat and read the first chapter.

    Beautiful photos, Carol. Really stunning.

  7. Kim-Lee P. says:

    This is a lovely post. By the way, I’ve nominated you for an Illuminating Blogger award. The details of the award can be found at at FoodStoriesBlog.com. Have a great day!

  8. Carol says:

    Florence, I’ve seen cactus blooms that look like roses, but I’ve never seen a daffodil that does. LOL! But I get what you’re saying.

    Joylene, those scrumptious-looking cakes can be such a disappointment, can’t they? If we could only remember that, we wouldn’t be tempted by their tasteless calories. You’re smart to look beyond book titles and covers. I’ll go beyond the title if the cover looks interesting. But then the back cover blurb also has to catch me before I’d be likely to start reading a chapter.

    Kim-Lee, I’m happy to welcome you here. Thank you so much for the honour of the ‘Illuminating Blogger Award’. Many of the blogs I visit are full of information so I wouldn’t know where to begin in passing the award along, but I do appreciate your kind gesture.

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