Publication Peculiarities: Titles


In this post in my series on publication peculiarities I look at titles (the first post was about papers as a whole). The paper titles below all have something interesting about them.

I have tried to give links to all the papers mentioned. Where one is not given the paper is (to my knowledge) not officially available on the web, although it may be nevertheless findable using Google Scholar.

Shortest Title

Here are some contenders for the shortest title (the first and third of these are taken from page 146 of my Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences, SIAM, 1998, second edition). Note that the following titles are all clickable, even though they are not underlined.

Charles McCarthy, c_p, Israel J. Math. 5(4), 249-271, 1967.

F. Brezzi, L. P. Franca, T. J. R. Hughes and A. Russo, b = \int g, Comput. Methods Appl. Mech. Engrg. 145(3-4), 329-339, 1997.

Norman Meyers and James Serrin, H=W, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sciences USA 51, 1055-1056, 1964.

Mitchell Feigenbaum and David Mermin, E=mc^2, American Journal of Physics 56, 18-21, 1988.

The last three titles have the virtue of forming a complete sentence with subject, verb and object.

Title Inspired by Film

Olivier Ledoit and Michael Wolf, Honey, I Shrunk the Sample Covariance Matrix, J. Portfolio Management 30(4), 110-119, 2004.

The next paper, referring to The Blair Witch Project (1999), uses a photo of Tony Blair to compare different colour maps:

Bernice E. Rogowitz and Alan D. Kalvin, The “Which Blair Project”: A Quick Visual Method for Evaluating Perceptual Color Maps, 183-556, in Proceedings of IEEE Visualization 2001, 2001.

Typo in Title

It is quite rare for a title to contain a typo. Here is an example

S. W. Ellacott and E. B. Saff, On Clenshaws’s Method and a Generalisation to Faber Series, Numer. Math., 52, 499-509, 1988.

In the body of the paper (in particular on the last line of the first page) the correct usage “Clenshaw’s” appears.

In the next example “Lambert W” is correctly spelled in the body of the paper, though not in the title:

M. M. Sherrif, N. S. Ravindran and P. Krishnapriya, Stability Analysis For Tumour Growth Model Through the Lambertz W Function, Journal of Advances in Mathematics 7(1), 1140-1146, 2014.

This paper has an incorrect spelling of Riccati:

George E. Trapp, Jr., The Ricatti Equation and the Geometric Mean, pages 437-445, in B. N. Datta, e.d., Linear Algebra and Its Role in Systems Theory, Contemporary Math., 47, 1985.

The next paper has a common grammatical error in the title:

A. A. Gurjar, S. Ladhake and A. Thakare, Analysis Of Acoustic of “OM” Chant To Study It’s Effect on Nervous System, International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security 9, 363-367, 2009.

The original 1942 edition of

Paul Halmos, Finite-Dimensional Vector Spaces, viii+200, Springer-Verlag, 1958.

was titled Finite Dimensional Vector Spaces, without the hyphen. Halmos explained that he became convinced of the need for the hyphen by the time of 1958 edition.

Finally, one should be aware that there can be errors in metadata if not in a paper itself. The title of

B. Wie, H. Weiss and A. Arapostathis, Quaternion Feedback Regulator for Spacecraft Eigenaxis Rotations, Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics 12, 375-380, 1989.

has no typos, but the journal’s metadata at the above link, including the title displayed on the web page, has the typo “quarternion”.


Authors like enumerating things. Here we count to ten in paper titles.

H. F. Baker, The Reciprocation of One Quadric into Another, Proc. Cambridge Philos. Soc. 23, 22-27, 1925.

Donald Knuth, Two Notes on Notation, Amer. Math. Monthly, 99, 403-422, 1992.

Thomas Quinn, Scott Tremaine and Martin Duncan, A Three Million Year Integration of the Earth’s Orbit, Astron. J. 101, 2287-2305, 1991.

K. Appel and W. Haken, Every Planar Map is Four Colorable. Part I: Discharging, Illinois J. Math. 21, 429-490, 1977.

David Anderson, Tom Kilburn: A Tale of Five Computers, Comm. CACM, 57, 35-38, 2014.

Ergin Elmacioglu and Dongwon Lee, On Six Degrees of Separation in DBLP-DB and More, SIGMOD Rec. 34, 33-40, 2005.

Brian McCartin, Seven Deadly Sins of Numerical Computation, Amer. Math. Monthly, 105, 929-941, 1998.

E. C. Berkeley, Eight Hundred People Interested in Mechanical Brains, Amer. Statist., 4, 11-12, 1950.

Desmond Higham, Nine Ways to Implement the Binomial Method for Option Valuation in MATLAB, SIAM Review, 44, 661-677, 2002.

Gian-Carlo Rota, Ten Lessons I Wish I Had Been Taught, Notices Amer. Math. Soc., 44, 22-25, 1997.

As for continuing beyond 10, I will just pick out two specific cases.

Joseph Lee Rodgers and Alan Nicewander, Thirteen Ways to Look at the Correlation Coefficient, Amer. Statist., 42, 59-66, 1988.

Cleve B. Moler and Charles F. Van Loan, Nineteen Dubious Ways to Compute the Exponential of a Matrix, Twenty-Five years Later, SIAM Review, 45, 3-49, 2003.


This category refers to titles that are looking at a topic from a higher perspective.

Michael Berry, Why Are Special Functions Special?, Physics Today 54, 11-12, 2001.

Barbara Kitchenham, Pearl Brereton, David Budgen, Mark Turner, John Bailey and Stephen Linkman, Systematic Literature Reviews in Software Engineering—A Systematic Literature Review, Information and Software Technology 51, 7-15, 2009.

The final article is somewhat controversial: see The Tears of Donald Knuth.

Martin Campbell-Kelly, The History of the History of Software, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 29, 40-51, 2007.

Shakespearean Titles

Now we are looking for titles that make reference to a Shakespearean play.

R. W. Bemer, Towards Standards for Handwritten Zero and Oh: Much Ado About Nothing (and a Letter), or a Partial Dossier on Distinguishing Between Handwritten Zero and Oh, Comm. ACM 10, 513-518, 1967.

William Kahan, Branch Cuts for Complex Elementary Functions or Much Ado About Nothing’s Sign Bit, in A. Iserles and M. J. D. Powell, eds, The State of the Art in Numerical Analysis, Oxford University Press, 1987, pages 165-211.

Peter Hall, A Comedy of Errors: The Canonical Form for a Stable Characteristic Function, Bull. London Math. Soc. 13, 23-27, 1981

Joel David Hamkins, Destruction or Preservation as You Like It, Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 91, 191-229, 1998


Someone whose titles I have often admired is William (Velvel) Kahan (he has already appeared in the previous section). I particular like his alliterative

William Kahan, Conserving Confluence Curbs Ill-Condition, Technical Report number 6, Computer Science Department, University of California, Berkeley, 1972.

and the pun in

William Kahan and Beresford N. Parlett, Can You Count on Your Calculator?, Memorandum No. UCB/ERL M77/21, Electronics Research Laboratory, College of Engineering, University of California, 1977.

If you know of further interesting titles please add them to the comments below.

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