Israel and Boobs

by Daniel on July 20, 2006

I thought I’d give this post a title which combines the obsession of the blogosphere with the obsession of the entire internet, because Max Sawicky has been complaining that some of our post titles have been a little bit off-putting of late, in particular, “Was Foucault a closet Habermasian?”. Max has a point; Foucault is all right but Habermas is ratings death. I actually own a book called “Hegel, Habermas and Hermeneutics” which I bought secondhand out of sheer admiration for the publisher’s gall at such a commercially suicidal title. It was standing next to a row of ten other copies, mint and unopened.

It got me to thinking though; what would be the most off-putting title in the world? So far, my suggestions are “Insurance Accounting in the Communist Countries”, “Comitology in the EU” and “The Role of Telecommunications Standards in the WTO Negotiations”.

The thing is, all three of these issues are actually rather interesting, and so was “Was Foucault a Closet Habermasian?”. It just goes to show you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I suppose. Furthermore, I am in the mood to get all contrarian and say that off-putting titles can be a virtue. Henry’s title of the Foucault post might have scared off readers who didn’t care about Foucault and Habermas, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that it was about Foucault and Habermas. Certainly, the posts with popular and whizzy titles often seem to attract the most ferocious morons to their comments sections.

So what would be the most genuinely off-putting title for a potentially interesting post? Suggestions are welcome in comments with one proviso: I am not looking for fictitious posts. Anyone suggesting a post title had better be able and prepared to write 250 words on the subject without being boring (or even better – link to a real-world example on their own blog). I will be making a few quasi-randomly selected calls of “bullshit” to keep you honest.



Dylan 07.20.06 at 1:24 am

I believe Pratchett had Vetinari hide a book he wanted for his sole personal use in the cover of “Lives of the Great Accountants, Vol. 4,” or something very similar.


robair 07.20.06 at 1:38 am

I’m writing some slash fanfic right now called “Harry Potter and the Closet of Habermas”. See also the oft-linked this.


magistra 07.20.06 at 1:43 am

I normally aim for sensational blog post titles myself. The most offputting one I’ve managed recently is ‘Gnosis then and now’ ( But because I write a lot on historical subjects, it would be fairly easy to produce a boring post title by focusing on a particular obscure historical figure I’m discussing rather than the wider theme I hope it illuminates. For example, a post I wrote on ‘Puritans and the rise of the underclass’ (vaguely interesting) could equally well go under the rubric of ‘The social theology of William Perkins’ (very offputting, unless you’ve ever heard of the man before, which I hadn’t).


bi 07.20.06 at 1:59 am

“Without being boring”… a bit of a tall order. I personally thought the Foucault-Habermasian thing looked rather boring, but that’s just me.

By a similar standard of un-“boring”, I guess “Market Speculation in _Calumet_ _K_” is as good a title as any other.


blah 07.20.06 at 2:14 am

“Farmers Use Bull Semen to Inseminate Cows”


sixfootsubwoofer 07.20.06 at 2:58 am

“Reconciling Continental and Analytic Philosophy”


sixfootsubwoofer 07.20.06 at 3:00 am

Oh, wait, I got it backwards. I thought you wanted a genuinely interesting sounding title that would make a horribly boring and pointless post…


mykej 07.20.06 at 3:10 am

“Al Gore’s Powerpoint Presentation.”


Daniel 07.20.06 at 3:13 am

At this early stage the clear leader is “Gnosis: Then and Now”.


bad Jim 07.20.06 at 3:20 am

Um, Farmers use bull semen to inseminate cows is actually a current news item, for some reason.

I thought HEZBOLLAH AND THE IDF, PART 2 a rather eye-glazing title but Neutrinos for Beginners positively enticing.


bad Jim 07.20.06 at 3:25 am

(Sorry; I’d seen the bull article at Yahoo, but not the CT post.)

“The Psychopathology of Everyday Things” was Donald Norman’s original title for his book on design failures, and a design failure in itself.


Platypus 07.20.06 at 5:07 am

Neurological Action of C-Type Natriuretic Peptides


Platypus 07.20.06 at 5:18 am

Oops, forgot the links: 1 2. Personally I think the defensin-like peptides are more interesting, but CNP made for a title better suited to this thread.


Kelly 07.20.06 at 5:56 am


At 4am, and on night two of insomnia, this sounds like a fun challenge. I’ll probably regret this after sleep.

How about “Allopoietic Orientalism and Excluded Autopoietics”?


Daniel 07.20.06 at 6:04 am

ooh that’s pretty good. In general, my assumption is that anything with “Orientalism” in the title is going to be tedious beyond belief. Apart from the book “Orientalism”, curiously.


Richard Bellamy 07.20.06 at 6:05 am

Pre-Modern Hermeneutics: A Hegelian Exegesis on the New Metaphysics


abb1 07.20.06 at 6:08 am

“Insurance Accounting in the Communist Countries”

I bet you Chinese insurance accounting practices are at least as exciting as Vietnamese railways.


Down and Out In Sài Gòn 07.20.06 at 8:08 am

I’ll have a wack; “The Undying yet Ironical Significance of Trần HÆ°ng Đạo: A summary”.

Basiclly, this particular Vietnamese general was the only guy to kick the Mongol horde’s asses twice. That’s quite a feat. I can’t think of anyone else who pulled this off. Not the Russians, not the Chinese and not the Persians.

Oh, and those campaigns were an early form of 4GW. He was a smart guy. He let the bulk of the Mongol army die of Malaria first before tackling them.

The irony is that while the country is justifiably proud of this man, they still won’t show his face on the banknotes.


Iain Coleman 07.20.06 at 8:22 am

Just about any of the recent articles on the late Syd Barrett could have been entitled “East Anglian Diabetic Suffers Complications”.


Henry 07.20.06 at 8:49 am

oh dear. Not only am I responsible for the offending post, but I have an article forthcoming on comitology in the EU. _And_ a book that I’ve just submitted on differences in cooperation between firms in the mechanical engineering industries of Bologna and Stuttgart. I wouldn’t put it past myself to write something on telecommunications standards and the WTO in the future. I plead in mitigation that I’m still not in the same class as the bloke guest-blogging at Michael Froomkin’s place at the moment. Several posts in a row on the importance of “accounting simplification”: and the like.


norbizness 07.20.06 at 8:50 am

“You Are Seeing Me Write Something”


Cryptic Ned 07.20.06 at 9:06 am

“Toward a Consensus Politics of Principle”


SamChevre 07.20.06 at 9:06 am

OK, so I’m doubly cheating–I have the book and it’s close to one of your titles–but “US GAAP for Life Insurance”* is my nominee. (Yes, I can easily write a post on and how it affects non-actuaries.)

*AKA, The Big Black Book


Daniel 07.20.06 at 9:07 am

Whither Regulation?


Daniel 07.20.06 at 9:09 am

Henry: oh dear hahaha. I suggest you call them all things like “Dhimmis and Baywatch” or “When Islamofascists Meet Strippers”.

That accounting simplification guy is a world champion optimist. The post is titled “Accounting Simplication” and it says “More in the footnote”.


Cryptic Ned 07.20.06 at 9:09 am

“Euston: Pros and Some Cons: An Exegesis”


Daniel 07.20.06 at 9:54 am

Since this is the thread for titles, I will put this here to remind myself to write something about McKinsey & Co one day and title it “None Dare Call It Consultancy”.


Richard 07.20.06 at 9:57 am

Real newspaper headlines, taken from this morning’s Google News:

“Three Israeli soldiers wounded in Lebanon”
– The Hindu

“Veto of stem cell bill vexes local scientists”
– Fairview Observer


bi 07.20.06 at 9:57 am

At this juncture, I’m rooting for #18. Forget _Calumet_ _K_.


consigliere 07.20.06 at 10:03 am

“Epistemology and Pheromones (Synthese Library)”


Kelly 07.20.06 at 10:14 am

ooh that’s pretty good. In general, my assumption is that anything with “Orientalism” in the title is going to be tedious beyond belief. Apart from the book “Orientalism”, curiously.
The nice thing about it is that it’s only three double-spaced pages, so you get through the tedium quickly. ;)

(Although I’ve got to say, after having to read/teach/grade on Orientalism-the-book for the fourth time, I was ready to throw it out the window, right behind Beloved.)

I have other fun things, like “Conflict Created by Static Dominant Cultural Identities” and “Embodied Affective Connectivity”. Of course, looking through other titles I think “well, some people might think that’s bad… but I kinda think it’s a neat title!” so I’ve lost objectivity on at least some of ’em.

For things I haven’t written, I nominate anything by Zizek. Or how about “Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization”?


Spoon 07.20.06 at 10:28 am

“Theodicy vs. ‘The Odyssey:’ Epic Myth and the Problem of Evil”

“And I’ll Never Have That Recipe Again: The Impermanence of Emotional and Cultural Touchstones in Modern Society”

“Varied opinions on politics spark organizing trend”


Sebastian Holsclaw 07.20.06 at 11:27 am

“An Analysis of Unprovability”


blah 07.20.06 at 11:40 am

Ok, here’s a real one:

“Foreign Sovereign Immunity and the Enforcement of International Arbitration Awards under the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of International Arbitration Awards”


Dan Kervick 07.20.06 at 11:47 am

Dr. Who Related Bedwetting and anti-Mediterranean Football Snobbery in England/Britain/UK/Albion from the Perspective of US and Canadian Students of German-Irish Heritage Taking Summer Classes in The Netherlands/Holland/Benelux/Low Countries.


Dan Kervick 07.20.06 at 11:49 am

Perish and Publish: The Likely Effects of the Coming Global Genocide on Tenure and Promotion


will u. 07.20.06 at 2:42 pm

My mother once commented on the lackluster title of Bergmann’s “The Metaphysics of Logic Postivism,” which I had bought at a secondhand bookstore


thuringwethil 07.20.06 at 4:44 pm

Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volume One: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism


nick s 07.20.06 at 7:13 pm

Given that title, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with a blog combining the two. Oh.

On topic: lit-crit articles are often great at killing interesting(ish) pieces with leaden titles. I could probably give you 250 on ‘Prosopopoeia and Post-Augustan Mock-Panegyric’ if you were feeling sufficiently masochistic.


Richard 07.20.06 at 8:21 pm

Perish and Publish: The Likely Effects of the Coming Global Genocide on Tenure and Promotion

Brilliant. Nothing gives an author cred like becoming the victim of political violence.
….although, of course, Benjamin was a genius.


nb 07.20.06 at 9:52 pm

Evaluating the Effects of The Pre-Socratic Diet: Into the Bowels of Philosophy


mcd 07.20.06 at 10:57 pm

Israel and Boobs, or Tanks for the Mammaries.


loonunit 07.20.06 at 11:35 pm

I also have to give my vote to “Perish and Publish.”

Though I will submit. “Using Moore’s Law to Calculate the Optimal Rate of Slacking.”

Which, of course, somebody actually did.


Down and Out in Sài Gòn 07.20.06 at 11:53 pm

After commenting (#18), I thought to myself “Hey – maybe I should post that on my blog …”


Nabakov 07.21.06 at 12:44 am

Title of an actual monograph I came across in a technical library.

“Tungsten tipped drill bits and other boring machinery.”

And here’s the opposite of Daniel’s challenge, a vert intriguing post title with a very disappointing follow up.


bad Jim 07.21.06 at 5:34 am

The Great American Diurnal Migration, Peak Oil,Anthropogenic Global Climate Change and Implications for the Market for Ceramic Magnets.


magistra 07.21.06 at 6:45 am

I’ve just been sent the URL of the useful, but immensely boring sounding ‘Typographical errors in library databases’
( If you’ve ever been unable to find a book on a library catalogue, even though you *know* it’s in the library, the reason may well be lurking in these lists.


Daniel 07.21.06 at 7:18 am

I once sat in a half-day seminar at the Bank of England on the subject of how many significant digits banks should calculate EMU exchange rates to and how they should minimise rounding error in conversion to the euro. It was fascinating beyond belief.


99 07.21.06 at 9:01 am

Can’t you see what I mean? Rhetorical failures in blogging.


PLN 07.21.06 at 10:02 am

“A grundnorm-expressivistic account of constitutional discourse: reconciling Kelsen, Gibbard, and Dworkin.”

Oh, crap. Now I actually want to write an article on it.


hilzoy 07.21.06 at 10:29 am

It doesn’t actually fit, but I have to record the fact that I once saw and article entitled:

Is the Death Penalty Truly Irrevocable?


hilzoy 07.21.06 at 10:30 am

an article. AN article. Must learn to proofread.


eweininger 07.21.06 at 11:26 am

Perish and Publish: The Likely Effects of the Coming Global Genocide on Tenure and Promotion

I’d be on board with this one too, but only if there was an appendix dealing with faculty governance issues.


protected static 07.21.06 at 12:05 pm

Object-Oriented Design Heuristics

Personally, I find it fascinating; others, not so much…


bi 07.21.06 at 12:06 pm

Now I need to think up something about Galileo. Or the Bogdanov affair.


anthony 07.21.06 at 12:40 pm

unmeditated gender signifers, sexual ambiguity and the cult of youth in the work of kenny chesney


Albert 07.21.06 at 1:17 pm

How about: “The neodialectic paradigm of discourse and the subtextual paradigm of expression”

Anything else from the Postmodern Generator will do too.


Kelly 07.22.06 at 12:58 am

Hah, Albert – I never again have to come up with my own title for a paper! Awesome! ;)


steve kyle 07.22.06 at 10:39 am

None of you guys have anything on the economists. Just a couple of titles from the past couple of months’ working paper series:

Epistemology, Normative Theory and Poverty Analysis

Does Conditionality Generate Heterogeneity and Regressivity in Program Impacts?

These are actually pretty good compared to what you can find over the past few years


'As you know' Bob 07.22.06 at 11:21 am

The canonical Boring Title – I believe it’s the local reference standard at the Economist – is the think piece entitled Whither Canada?


Doctor Slack 07.22.06 at 12:30 pm

The canonical Boring Title . . . is the think piece entitled Whither Canada?

I’ll do you one better: New Directions in Canadian Prairie Writing.


Heckblazer 07.24.06 at 2:12 am

Well, my favorite such title is from an anthropology book I was assinged in college: _Political Systems of Highland Burma_.

Comments on this entry are closed.