julia mejnertsen

it's all in a name - choosing the title for my book

Added on by hulu_jay.

tokyo, japan

i mentioned in a prior blog entry that i wanted to talk a little bit about my thoughts, as well as jan and yumi's input, on choosing a title for my book. back when the initial bookmaking discussion sessions started via skype with jan, before coming to japan, my book project had the working title 'gaijin' (which means foreigner in japanese). the reason being that i often feel like a foreigner in denmark in the sense of not really belonging. also, i thought the japanese characters for gaijin (外人) looked nifty. i was quickly told however that i should reconsider the title. i agreed to do that, although i didn't understand why initially. i still thought it was pretty catchy and would frame the story well.

when i came to tokyo however, i already had another title in mind. my new title came from the research i was told to do on the subject of expatriation / existential migration etc. i discovered another theoretical field called migratory aesthetics, where i took the new title from. the initial title 'gaijin', a word that has different meanings to foreigners and japanese people, and is japanese, thus incomprehensible to a lot of people in general, was thrown out.  the new title being 'Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?'. On the first dummy i made, it was actually a little longer (Please tell me, how does one pronounce a hyphen anyway?). As you probably know a hyphen is a form of dash that is used to hold two words together, but also separate a word into two, when a line ends and a new begins. In danish the word is 'bindestreg', which more or less means a line that ties something together. i thought that that title worked well for my book, because it for one is symbolic of something being either held together or separated - if separated, it is done in order for a word to fit in on a line. it is a character merely used for appearances sake. so while you might think that the title is a little cryptic, you should really just take 2 minutes and carefully read and try to answer the question. think about what a hyphen is and what its usage is, and i think you have the answer and understand a little bit, what the book is about.

tell me or don't tell me

after having narrowed in on the title, we tried to hone in on the perfect form for the title. should it be one sentence, two sentences of even three? should i include the question mark or was it superfluous? should i take out the 'Tell me,'-part and just call it, 'How do you pronounce a hyphen?'

1) Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?

2) Tell me,

    how do you pronounce a hyphen?

3) Tell me,

    how do you pronounce

    a hyphen? 

i decided on the second option. i think that 'Tell me,' is an important part of the title, as it makes it personal and more relatable - like a call out to the reader to help me find out. i also think that visually the second option looks best, and I could not think of any arguments for making three lines. So far, i have also decided on keeping the question mark, as leaving it out, would call for major questions as to why it is not there. At this stage i don't feel there are any good reasons to not include it. but i might not have thought it through all the way to the end yet, so it might change (but i don't think it will ;)).

these were just some of the thought-processes and discussions i've been through in the course of forming this book. as you might have noticed, every detail is thought through and nothing is left up to coincidence or chance. all of this contemplating about all the little details, have surprised me a little, but excited me at the same time. it is fun to do something wholeheartedly, where everything is considered, and you understand, why you choose one thing over the other. i am very happy that i now have a better understanding of the bookmaking process, it really appeals to the perfectionistic / detail-oriented side of me, and for once i have time to consider all the details and not rush, just because other things are demanding my attention. also, id i hadn't done this workshop, i would have made a photobook called 'gaijin', i am pretty happy that didn't happen.