Trivial Title
When a work is named after a story element that isn't that important.


(permanent link) added: 2013-04-06 03:12:14 sponsor: StevenT edited by: CaveCat (last reply: 2013-05-16 09:45:27)

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Most stories get their titles from the main plot or the name of the main character, but this is when the author takes an incidental element from the story and gets the title from that.

It may be an unimportant character, an unimportant plot point or something that doesn't come up until late in the story.

Keep on mind that some of these are examples where the literal thing the title refers to is not that significant, but the title also describes the theme (or one of the themes) of the work, so it's not really trivial. In these cases, it may overlap with Justified Title.

A subtrope of Non-Indicative Name. May be a consequence of Artifact Title.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Bleach: Many people assume it's named after Ichigo's bleached looking bright orange hair, but Word of God states that the word 'bleach' is meant to be evocative of the color white, which contrasts with the color black, which is the main color of the main characters' uniforms. So the title refers to the complementary color to their uniforms just to make it more interesting and artistic.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry aka "When the Cicadas Cry" is an example, although it's also a play on words The Japanese word for "cicadas" is similar to the Japanese word for "murderer". Cicadas aren't important to the story at all. Their chirping is just used as a background sound effect for atmosphere.

Film
  • In the Troma movie Plutonium Baby, the titular plutonium baby doesn't appear until right at the end.
  • Chasing Amy is named after an anecdote Kevin Smith (as Silent Bob) delivers near the climax of the film.
  • The Subspecies series is named after a small race of creatures who barely factor into the movies.
  • Cave Dwellers: The actual cave dwellers are shown very briefly in the movie. The rest of the plot revolves around a journey made by a character named Ator to save his former mentor from the bad guy. The scene with the cave people is just a brief detour. It's worth mentioning that it was originally Ator l'invincible 2 (Ator the Invincible 2, also released in the US as Ator, the Blade Master or The Return). Cave Dwellers is just the title that Venture Films International slapped on it when they got the distribution rights. Of course, since the VFI version was the one featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, it's the most famous one.
  • Dr. Strangelove: The titular character has lines in only two scenes, explaining things, and doesn't have any role in the film otherwise.
  • The movie Chocolate is about an autistic girl beating people up to pay for her mother's chemotherapy. She also happens to like chocolate, though that doesn't affect the plot in the slightest.
  • In The Ghost of Frankenstein the Ghost is on screen for about 60 seconds.
  • The title of the British movie Divorcing Jack refers to how the protagonist mishears the last name of composer Antonin Dvorak. However, the composer isn't really significant to the plot either, "Dvorak" is merely a clue that leads the protagonist to some information he was looking for, which has nothing to do with Dvorak or his music.
  • The Room: The action doesn't all happen in one room, and there's nothing special about Johnny's living or bedroom, or about any other rooms featured in the movie.

Literature
  • The Fifth Elephant: Despite the enraged plummeting pachyderm on the cover of some editions, to say nothing of the title, the book is not actually about an elephant. Well, it is about an elephant, but a metaphorical, not literal, one. OK, OK, there is a literal elephant, but it's a legend of something that may or may not have happened millions of years ago. The titular Fifth Elephant lost its footing on Great A'tuin's shell in prehistory and collided with the Disc, breaking apart its Pangaea-type supercontinent and being responsible for Uberwald's fat reserves; and is also a Uberwaldian phrase meaning "something that is not what it seems".
  • The Silence of the Lambs refers to an anecdote told in the story. It's also a Title Drop as the last words of the novel (not of The Film of the Book).
  • In The Cat Who Walks Through Walls the eponymous cat is a very minor character which shows up near the end and doesn't do much, apart from walking through a wall or two.
  • State of Fear. The title refers to the thesis that the US government and the media are collaborating to keep the public in a near-constant panic, ensuring their continued power. This thesis was completely overshadowed (both in the novel, and in the Real Life media controversy surrounding the novel) by the secondary point that global warming in particular is just a hoax--the latest such hoax used to perpetuate the state of fear.

Live-Action TV
  • Doctor Who episode "The Bells of St John". The title refers to the TARDIS phone ringing and has nothing to do with the Evil Wi Fi plot at all.
    • The Doctor Who itself could count as a subversion. The question "Doctor who?" has always been a clarification to new audience members that his name is just "the Doctor" and not "Doctor [surname]." But after series 6, the question--and therefore, the title--has been given significance as The Reveal of his name and the end of the universe (probably).

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer is named after Sigmar's hammer Ghal Maraz (Skull-splitter), but it sees relatively little use in the fluff, being one weapon among hundreds used by one faction among a dozen.
    • Similarly, Warhammer 40K was originally just Warhammer Recycled IN SPACE!, but now the franchises are noticeably different. Warhammers are still used, but just by certain characters of a faction or two, and the current present is the 42nd millenium.

Theatre
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is named after an Orphaned Punchline in the play.
  • The Glass Menagerie is named after a collection of glass animals owned by one of the characters. It should be specified, though, that the incidental element has symbolic meaning: the glass animals represent the fragility of the characters' relationship with each other.

Video Games
  • Legend of Zelda might be considered this. Not any specific title, but just the name in particular, but to the fact that the story mostly centers around Link, not Zelda. So, this means that Link pretty much does anything. Some games don't even have Zelda in them.
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Rose Tattoo: The game is named after a tattoo you find during a corpse examination, which is important for identifying the corpse. Apart from that, the tattoo has no relevance to the plot and isn't mentioned again.
  • In The Elder Scrolls the eponymous artifacts are only a background element in the first three games and play only a small role in one side questline in the fourth. However Skyrim has one as an important piece of the puzzle in the main quest: it allows you to travel back in time to learn the Dragonrend Shout.
  • Dubloon is titled after the currency used in the game that has no bearing to its plot.

Western Animation
  • Mr. Bogus:
    • The episode "No Snooze Is Good News" had very little to do with actual sleeping, as Bogus's fantasy life while asleep is only acknowledged in the second act.
    • Likewise, the episode "Hipster Tripster" has absolutely nothing to do with actual hipsters.

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