What Makes a Good Title: Flow and Euphony in Entertainment Media

Generally, I prefer translated titles. It’s not always the case, but English titles are usually easier to remember. So, naturally, before I watched Zetsuen no Tempest, I asked The Twitter what the translation for that was. The response I got was ugly. I don’t mean as in they were mean to me, but the actual translation they presented lacked any sort of aesthetic sense to it.

Try to say it: Blast of Tempest. There’s just something off about how it sounds, and that is something I cannot abide. Having two iambic feet in a row just sounds incomplete to my ears, and the slant rhyme of “blast” and “tempest” just doesn’t work when they’re so close together.

But what, really, makes for a good title? Isn’t it all up to personal taste? Well, yes, to an extent. But as with so many things, there are some guidelines that really will help. How the words sound together matters almost as much as what they mean, especially when you’re trying to sell a certain show to somebody. So let’s look at some examples of (what I consider) “good” titles.

How about: Ghost in the Shell. Here we have four short words in a trochee-iamb format, which provides for a pretty great sense of flow. Both the first and last syllable are accented, so you begin and end on a strong note. The words themselves have a decent sense of sound (“ghost” in particular is very euphonous, in my opinion) and no almost-rhymes to mess it up.

Now and Then, Here and There, in contrast, is two cretic feet (stressed – unstressed – stressed) which makes for a more abrupt sort of flow, but the parallelism of the two halves holds it together aesthetically. Again we have mostly short, Germanic words (perhaps you’ve noticed my bias) and no rhyming to speak of.

Voices of a Distant Star. Dactyl-iamb-iamb. Basically what I’m getting at is I like when the last syllable of an English title is translated. For some reason that doesn’t seem to hold with respect to Japanese titles, because Zetsuen no Tempest flows just fine to my ears. But I know next to nothing of Japanese besides what I hear in anime, so I’ll assume it’s just something I’ve picked up from there.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted October 5, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    So fucking pretentious, bro

  2. Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I think “Blast of the Tempest” or “A Blast of Tempest” would be a lot more acceptable. That’s the trouble with asking for translation from people who aren’t the best at the language they are translating into (even if it is their native language).

    • Chronolynx
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Blast of the Tempest sounds a good deal better to my ears

  3. gwello
    Posted October 7, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Loving all the poetic terms you’re shelling out. Haven’t heard those since college. :)

    • Chronolynx
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Gotta use that education for something, right?

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