Literature, music and television are full of quotable quotes, and they are frequently used as titles in other works
. In this case, only part of a quote is used, one which really doesn't indicate what it's about, but the other part, the one left unsaid, does. This often gets audiences thinking before they see it, and creates expectations about what it will be about, particularly if it's a very well-known quote that everyone can finish without thinking. Other, more obscure, quotes may count as a Genius Bonus
, but will still serve the same function in those familiar with them.
Consider a quote that everyone knows from William Shakespeare
, "To be, or not to be
," from a scene in which Hamlet contemplates suicide. For this to be in effect, a work in which a character is considering killing himself would be titled, "To Be", while one that focuses on the reasons he has to live would be titled "Or Not To Be".
of Literary Allusion Title
. Compare Compound Title
and Double Meaning Title
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- The EC Comics story "...And All Through The House" note takes place on the night before Christmas.
- The Watchmen not only takes its title from the famous quote attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal ("Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"/"Who watches the watchmen?"), but also the name of every single chapter is a piece of song lyrics/other famous quotes. The full quotes are found at the end of each chapter.
- Chapter I: "At Midnight, All the Agents..." (from the song, "Desolation Row", by Bob Dylan).
- Chapter II: Absent Friends (from the song, "The Comedians", by Elvis Costello).
- Chapter III: The Judge of All Earth (from the Book of Genesis).
- Chapter IV: Watchmaker (from the quote, "The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking... The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.", by Albert Einstein).
- Chapter V: Fearful Symmetry (from the poem, "The Tyger", by William Blake).
- Chapter VI: The Abyss Gazes Also (from the quote, "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.", by Friedrich Nietzsche).
- Chapter VII: A Brother to Dragons (from the Book of Job).
- Chapter VIII: Old Ghosts (from the poem, "Hallowe'en", by Eleanor Farjoen).
- Chapter IX: The Darkness of Mere Being (from the book, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Carl Jung).
- Chapter X: Two Riders Were Approaching... (from the song, "All Along the Watchtower", by Bob Dylan).
- Chapter XI: Look on My Works, Ye Mighty... (from the sonnet, "Ozymandias", by Percy Bysshe Shelley).
- Chapter XII: A Stronger Loving World (from the song, "Sanities", by John Cale).
- Used In-Universe in The Sandman's "Dream Country" Story Arc. The title of Calliope's capturer's first book is "Here comes a candle" (notable in that there are several actual books called that).
- The film Come and See is about a boy's experiences during the Nazi invasion of Soviet Russia. Its title alludes to Revelation 6, where John is told to "come and see", and then writes "and I looked, and behold, a pale horse whose rider's name was Death."
- Now You See Me, but the film's really about what you don't see until the very end..."now you don't."
- Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises takes its title from the poem, "Le Cimetiere marin" ("The Graveyard By The Sea"), by Paul Valery. The full quote is: "Le vent se leve!... Il faut tenter de vivre!" ("The Wind Rises!... We must try to live!") This is presented at the start of the film, as well as quoted several times during it, so the viewer doesn't actually need to know the poem.
- The rather non-descriptive title of What Dreams May Come is part of a line from the "To be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet. The full line reads: "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come", which reveals the premise of the dying dream plot.
- Fools Rush In's title doesn't really make sense considering it's a romantic comedy, until you hear the Elvis Presley lyric "Wise men say / only fools rush in / but I can't help / falling in love with you" in the film.
- The title of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The 6th Day is part of, "God created man in His own image. And behold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." (Genesis 1:27, 31).
- Love Actually, truncated from the line "Love actually is all around."
- The Wilfred Owen poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est" ("it is sweet and fitting") is a cross-language example - the full quote being "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" (it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country), which is much more appropriate to the poem's War Is Hell subject matter (though it is still an ironic usage).
- Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil. Even though there is plenty of evil in the world of this story, it (and lack of fear thereof) isn't really important to the plot. However, the other part of the quote "Though I walk through the valley of death", is a perfect title for the story.
- The title of Monstrous Regiment is a variant in which the source quote is so obscure that readers are not intended to recognize it — because if they did, it would be a Spoiler Title. It's named after a sixteenth-century political work titled, "The first blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regiment of women".
- Of Mice and Men is taken from a line in the Robert Burns poem "To A Mouse". The full line goes "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" ("The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry"), foreshadowing how the plans of the main characters will go unfullfilled due to tragic circumstances.
- Some of the titles in the The First Law are this coupled with Literary Allusion Title, and are taken from a quote which is (one of the) work's epigraph(s):
- The first novel, The Blade Itself comes from a quotation from Homer that "The blade itself incites to deeds of violence'' (as discussed here, it is a loose translation).
- The second novel is titled Before They Are Hanged, and derives from a Henrich Heine quote, "We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged."
- The third novel's title, The Last Argument of Kings, refers to the words Louis XIV had inscribed on his cannons: "Ultima Ratio Regum," which is Latin for "the last argument of kings."
- A standalone novel Best Served Cold derives from the proverb that "Revenge is a dish best served cold", which fits the novel being about the heroine's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Another standalone novel, The Heroes alludes to a quote by Bertolt Brecht that "Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes"
- Ben Elton's World War I novel The First Casualty is named for a quotation attributed to US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson: "The first casualty when war comes is truth."
- The Fault in Our Stars is quote mined from Shakespeare's "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves." Quoth John Green, "Which is an easy thing to say if you're, like, you know, Shakespeare or a Roman nobleman, but in the broad sense, I don't know that I agree with Shakespeare a hundred percent." Disease, especially diseases like cancer, rarely comes to affect people who "deserve" it. It's really very random. And cancer is what really serves as the most negative influence on the characters' lives, so the fault did indeed lie in their stars.
- The title of the novel The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side by Agatha Christie comes from a quote from the poem "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. There's no mirror in the novel, but there is a woman under a kind of curse.
Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott
- Agatha Christie's novel The Pale Horse has a Double Meaning Title. Most obviously, "The Pale Horse" is the name of an old inn that is central to the plot. But, also, it is an allusion to the Book of Revelations: "I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death." In the book, three old women claim to be able to kill people using magic, and they have the body count to back up their claim.
- Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves refers to a longer quote from Friedrich Schiller, which makes up the titles of its three acts: "Against Stupidity ... The Gods Themselves ... Contend in Vain." Fitting, since the willful stupidity of certain characters literally threatens to destroy the world.
- Isaac Asimov's "That Thou Art Mindful of Him" takes its title from a Biblical psalm which asks "What is Man that thou art mindful of Him?". The question "What is Man?" (or as we'd more likely say now, "What is the definition of a human being?") is central to the story.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls is part of a line from a devotional writing by John Donne. In this case, it's the previous line that is most thematically appropriate: "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind" (the novel is largely an exploration of the nature of companionship in a time of war and death). However, completing the line that the title is taken from also makes it into a Spoiler Title: "And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
- Theirs Not To Reason Why, from Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" ("...Theirs but to do and die")
- The first episode of Angel is titled "City of..."
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode: "Whom Gods Destroy". The episode isn't about people being destroyed, by gods or otherwise. However if you know the entire quote "Whom gods destroy, they first drive mad", you'll see it's a perfect title for an episode about an insane asylum.
- The Grand Finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation is called "All Good Things..."
- The episode "The Most Toys" is taken from the quote "He who dies with the most toys wins", a sentiment shared by the antagonist, as he is willing to threaten and risk lives for the purpose of increasing his collection. The ending reinforces it, as he is defeated not by being killed but by living long enough to see his collection confiscated.
- The Twilight Zone:
- The episode "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" qualifies. The next line of Longfellow's poem is "It fell to earth, I know not where", lampshading that the astronauts have not landed on a desert planet, but in a desert on Earth.
- The title of the episode "A Nice Place to Visit" comes from the saying "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." The Ironic Hell seen in this episode is a casino where you always win: indeed a nice place to visit, but one that drives you crazy with boredom if you're stuck there for all eternity.
- The US TV sitcom Til Death implies the rest of "Us Do Part."
- One famous Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode is titled "In the Pale Moonlight", referencing the Joker's line in Batman: Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?''
- Babylon 5: One episode is called "And Now For A Word", which in the old days was usually finished with "from our sponsors." This episode is shown as an ISN documentary on the station, and includes a commercial for the Psi Corps, which has a single frame with the words, "The Psi Corps is your friend. Trust the Corps." The implication is that Psi Corps was the sponsor and that they got their word in.
- All That Glitters (is not gold) is a saying that (or at least its most well-known form) comes from a line in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. (Though it should be noted that this is somewhat a case of Beam Me Up, Scotty!, since the actual word used in the play is "glisters", not "glitters".
- And Call Him George is not about calling an animal George, but hugging and petting it to death. The original Tex Avery MGM Cartoon quote goes: "I'm gonna love him, and hug him, and pet him, and call him George!"
- Due to the Dead is missing the first part, "the respect", or "the reverence".
- He Who Fights Monsters comes from the famous quote by Friedrich Nietzsche. The full quote is presented on the trope page, and it goes like this: "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you".
- The trope With Friends Like These... is one half of a phrase that ends with "...who needs enemies?".
- The trope Miles to Go Before I Sleep partially refers to the line before — "But I have promises to keep," ie. one last job to do before death.
- Revenge is a dish Best Served Cold.
- The other half of Woman Scorned is "Hell hath no fury..." — fitting, as it's about a rampaging ex-love interest.
- Character is What You Are in the Dark.
- It's Not the Fall That Kills You, it's the sudden stop at the end.
- Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear.
- All of the Other Reindeer used to laugh and call him names, for something that will probably wind up saving the day.
- If I Can't Have You, then no one can!
- If I Wanted You Dead... you would already be dead. There are several variations on this one, but the gist of all of them is that whoever's saying it is perfectly capable of killing someone, but has not for a specific reason.
- The original Deus Ex is largely about machines (whether human or AI), though some of them do have a god complex.
- Final Fantasy XIV has a quest about halfway through the main storyline titled "All Good Things", referencing the saying "All good things must come to an end." Having just triumphed over Titan, you return to the Scions' safehouse to report in person. And you find the aftermath of a brutal Garlean attack, with only one survivor who hangs on just long enough to tell you what happened and where to go. Worse, the Garleans were there specifically looking for you.
- Red Dead Redemption has a mission close to the end of the game, "The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed", in which John Marston must protect his family when their farmstead is attacked by the US Cavalry. If you're familiar with the original quote, a passage from Corinthians, you know there are two words missing from the end, "... is Death", which makes it pretty easy to guess that John is killed at the end of the mission.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is largely about honor.
- Lego Lord of the Rings has an Achievement/Trophy called "One Does Not Simply...". Completing the quote tells you how to unlock it: Walk into Mordor. Of course, when looking through lists of achievements, the title and requirement are written together, forming the whole quote.
- World of Warcraft: There's a quest in the Mt. Hyjal region that's a play on the phrase, "If you're not with us, you're against us", but switches it around a bit. The actual title is, "If You're Not Against Us...", and the point is to convince a demonic satyr to help repel the invading Twilight's Hammer, which he does, though he arranges it so that in the process he can escape the chains imprisoning him there.