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Never Trust a Title
"And there's the cane from Citizen Kane. Wait, there was no cane in Citizen Kane."
Lisa, The Simpsons, "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?"

Sometimes, a title makes no sense. Sometimes, however, a title will make a sort of sense, but on later ponderings, will be seen as misleading. Sometimes this is due to the title being an Artifact Title or perhaps the writer simply thought it was a cooler name. Also sometimes leads to instances of I Am Not Shazam. Taken to the extreme, these types of titles can lead to a Nonindicative Name.

Compare Completely Different Title. Contrast Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Fist of the North Star isn't exactly the most accurate translation of the Japanse title, Hokuto no Ken, its just that it sounds a helluva cooler than "Fist of the Big Dipper" (which is what "Hokuto" actually is, the Japanese name for the Big Dipper).
    • Or "Ken the Great Bear Fist", which is the localized title suggested by Toei's International Sales & Promotion Department (source).
    • However, it's not THAT inaccurate either. Considering that the "Big Dipper" is a constelation that helps you find the "North star" Polaris. [1]
  • This can happen when an author does not know as much English as they think they do and decides to append an official English version of their work's original English title. For example, one would think that something called Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3 would be about the members of a particular class, right? Nope! It turns out to be about a club of girls who are of disparate ages and none of whom (as far as we know) are in the same class as one another. The original Japanese title, Tokurei Sochi Dantai Stella Jogakuin Koutouka C 3 Bu more accurately translates as Preferential Measure Organization Stella Women's Academy, High School Division, C3 Club.
  • There is a Ranma episode titled "Ranma and Kuno's... First Kiss." Be thankful that you really can never trust a title.
  • Though the titles do make some sense in context, ...Virgin Love and its sequel ...Junai No Seinen (The Young Person's Pure Love) do not do a very good job indicating how smutty the works are.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's episode 24 is titled "Saigo no Shisha". Usually translated as "The Final Messenger", it also means "The Final Casualty". While Kaworu's is chronologically the last character death in the original series, End of Evangelion is thought to be occurring at the same time as episodes 25 and 26 and includes multiple on-screen deaths.

    Comic Books 
  • Alan Moore's The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones is actually incomplete. Moore left 2000AD before finishing it.
  • The title of Watchmen refers to the graffiti, and philosophical question "Who watches the watchmen", not a group of superheroes.
    • This does not, however, prevent the fans from calling them the Watchmen. The movie even changes the name of the Crimebusters to reflect it.
  • BIONICLE comic 25: Birth of the Rahaga is an apt description of the comic's story. The alternative title on its cover, The Final Battle, not really. Unless one means that it's the final battle between these specific characters over this specific artifact. It's also a flashback, which makes the title more bogus.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • At least half of the Pink Panther movies don't involve the Pink Panther jewel. It's an Artifact Title.
  • The Thin Man movies have an Artifact Title. The thin man of the original movie referred to the murder victim, not the main character.
  • Kangaroo Jack is very much a supporting character in the roo's own movie. And it doesn't talk aside from a brief hallucination.
  • The movie Hearts in Atlantis. This is due, however, to it being an Artifact Title from the novella: the original novella was called "Low Men in Yellow Coats" and "Hearts in Atlantis" was an entirely different story (called so because the main character — avoiding going to Vietnam by being in college and thus it feeling like Atlantis — played the card game Hearts a lot (It Makes Sense in Context)). The movie makes no attempt at explaining the title. Other for it being, you know, a movie adaption of (a part of) the book Hearts in Atlantis... Brautigan refers to the sunken continent at some point in the dialogue, but that still doesn't make explicit the "hearts" part.
  • The Last King of Scotland is actually about the Last Dictator of Uganda. Idi Amin did claim to be the King of Scotland among his many other self-applied titles.
  • TRON isn't really about Tron, but more about Flynn. TRON: Legacy even moreso.
  • Monster A-Go Go has a monster (sorta), but he doesn't dance - nor does Go-go dancing figure into the threadbare plot it has.
  • The Ref. The title implies something sports-related, and the holiday setting suggests something happy, but the movie is about as black a comedy as one will find from mainstream Hollywood. The eponymous character is a cat burglar who kidnaps a horribly dysfunctional couple in an attempt to evade a manhunt, and winds up having to "referee" their bickering while he plots his escape. In retrospect, the title fits, but a first-time viewer would have no idea what to expect.
  • The Grapes of Death. Awesome title, but the grapes themselves don't kill anybody. Farm chemicals applied to the grapes cause people to go berserk.
  • My Life As A Dog isn't a human-canine body swap comedy, but rather a Swedish coming of age dramedy. The closest it gets to literalising the title is when the main character has a breakdown and pretends to be a dog.
  • A Time for Drunken Horses is a notable aversion. You'd swear it was a metaphor, but it really does have drunken horses.
  • The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is not a campy, counter-culture romp that the title implies. It's a straightforward horror-ish film. The zombies are actually of the traditional "hypnotized" variety and not the undead variety, so they don't "stop living" when they become zombies.
  • In Across The Pacific, the Pacific is never seen, let alone crossed. The original plot was supposed to involve a Japanese plot to bomb Pearl Harbor. When the real-life Pearl Harbor bombing occurred, the plot was hurriedly rewritten to be about an attack on Panama, but the title was not changed.

    Literature 
  • Some of the later Animorphs books got really bad about this. Titles like The Suspicion (where nothing is suspicious), The Prophecy (which features no prophecy), and The Hidden (which features a bizarre morphing buffalo that is definitely not hidden) come to mind.
    • Strangely, these are all books from Cassie's point of view. Make of that what you will.
  • The Three Musketeers is actually about the fourth musketeer who meets and joins the original three.
  • The Neverending Story ends. Well, the book has a bunch of subplots left with no ending, apparently to inspire children to become writers by actually encouraging them to write their own fanfiction. It's very meta.
  • Max Havelaar, of de koffiveilingen der Nederlandsche Handelsmaatschappy. The subtitle means 'or the coffee auctions of the Dutch Trading Company', but neither the company nor its auctions are mentioned anywhere in the book. Multatuli did this deliberately to get as many people as possible - particularly those interested in the coffee trade - to read his Author Tract.
  • Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty: a book containing scripts of the series, does not cover the whole dynasty. It doesn't contain The Cavalier Years and Blackadder's Christmas Carol.
  • Perdido Street Station has almost nothing to do with the eponymous novel, beyond a scene in the climax. On the other hand it's hard to find a title that would fit with a book like that.
  • Neil Gaiman's short story "Other People" has only one character.
  • In a similar vein, in Agatha Christie's short story "The Four Suspects", the killer turns out to be a fifth character not counted among the so-called suspects.
    • The same applies to "The Six Suspects", the original title of one of Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers stories. (In its book publication, the story was renamed "Out of Sight".)
  • The Goblet of Fire has a relatively brief appearance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and merely serves to trigger the events of the book, after which it's pretty much never seen or mentioned again. "....and the Triwizard Tournament" would've been significantly more descriptive.
  • A Clockwork Orange is a Word Salad Title that only makes sense in a variety of metaphorical senses, depending on which of the conflicting stories that Burgess has given to explain it that you believe. Suffice it to say that there are no literal clockwork oranges in the story.
  • Burnt Offerings has no offerings, burnt or otherwise.
  • The Decline of the West is a non-fiction book by German philosopher Oswald Spengler which inspired many people to grief about the coming end of civilization. Spengler wasn't completely happy with the title (which seemed to imply that the western world had to fall, like the Roman empire) and commented that he could've changed the title to "The fulfillment of the West", which would be closer to his intention - i.e. the west transforming to a stable but stagnant empire in the end. The fact that many fans only knew the title and didn't care to actually read the book didn't help.
  • BIONICLE Chronicles #3: Makuta's Revenge. Makuta's sole presence are two short monologues at the beginning and around the middle, and the rest of the story doesn't concern him, nor is he responsible for releasing the enemies, the six Bohrok-Kal. Their awakening was actually an automatic response to the heroes' victory over the regular Bohrok swarms and the Bahrag queens, from the previous book. Now, Makuta did release those, so technically he's indirectly responsible for unleashing the Kal as well, but the title's still a stretch. Later story material then Ret Conned out the "revenge" part, too.
    • Chronicles #4: Tales of the Masks, bearing the subtitle A New Quest..., makes it seem like it's about the Toa Nuva (featured on the cover) reenacting the tedious mask-collecting from the first book, but with new masks. The real focus is on exploring the relationships between the Toa and Turaga priests, through the Framing Story of the six Turaga reciting the tales of the mask-hunt, which is of lesser importance overall.
  • The third and final installment of The Mysterious Benedict Society has the title The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma. The Prisoner's Dilemma is only featured at the beginning of the book and has nothing to do with the overall plot of the story.
  • The Completely Different Title of the German translation of X-Wing: Rogue Squadron is X-Wing: Angriff auf Coruscant, i.e. "assault on Coruscant". However, the novel is merely about the beginnings of the New Republic campaign to eventually take over Coruscant the actual assault on Coruscant itself doesn't happen until later.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 Hours in A&E: This show technically stays within the premise that all the events of an episode occur within 24 hours... but few, if any, episodes actually cover that long a period - most just follow a single day or night shift.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The episode "The Next Doctor". But, of course, that's a spoiler.
    • The episode "Let's Kill Hitler," in which the Nazis and the genocidal dictator himself have little to no influence on the real plot. They either wasted a perfectly good plot or plotted a perfectly good waste, depending on your perspective.
  • iCarly: The episode "iCarly Saves TV". They don't save television, the gang gets the opportunity to turn iCarly into a TV show, it gets massive Executive Meddling and they give up and go back to the Internet.
  • Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger: In some markets, this show was localized as Galaxy Rangers, even though the only characters who are outside the Earth are the main villains.
  • Power Rangers Samurai: The first episode aired is titled "The Team Unites". Yet there is no uniting, at least not in a Recruit Teenagers with Attitude sense. The Rangers already have their powers, and the episode is primarily focused on the Green Samurai Ranger, Mike, who technically could be said to "rejoin" the team in the latter part of the episode. It's all but confirmed that it was supposed to be Episode 3, and the true "first episodes" of Samurai came in the form of Origins Episodes mid-season.
  • Revolution: "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia". The title implies we'll see events during the Blackout, but the episode proves to be anything but.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis: Beyond the first few seasons, these shows would often go entire episodes without mentioning or showing a Stargate.
  • Taggart: Since the death of actor Mark McManus, this show hasn't had Taggart.

    Meta 

    Music 
  • The first song on Twelfth Night's self-titled album is entitled "Last Song."
  • A Flock Of Seagulls' "The End" is the next-to-the-last track on The Story Of A Young Heart.
  • "Sympathy For The Devil" really doesn't portray him very sympathetically at all.
  • Intestinal Disgorge's "I'm Going To Fuck Your Kid." They even acknowledge this partway through:
    This song has nothing to do with fucking kids, by the way...
  • The song called Long Happy Life by Soviet-Russian Punk Rock singer Yegor Letov describes(in a very bizzare way) his And I Must Scream state of anhedonia, depression and anguish during abstinent syndrome after numerous alcohol and drug overdoses.
  • Throbbing Gristle's 20 Jazz Funk Greats. The genre is way off and the number of songs falls short by 9. If you include the bonus tracks on the latest reissue, it overshoots by 2.
  • Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats. Unlike the Throbbing Gristle example, the songs really do belong to the indicated genre; however, there are only ten of them.
  • The inaccuracy of the title of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "This Song Is Just Six Words Long" is self-evident.
    • The title seems slightly more accurate when read as "This Song's Just Six Words Long", but the lyrics still have a lot more than six words in them.
  • Subverted by original Beatles drummer, Pete Best, who infamously named his first album Best of the Beatles, confusing fans of The Beatles expecting a Greatest Hits album.
  • "Jack the Ripper" by Nick Cave is (unlike a huge amount of his songs) not a Murder Ballad. It actually has nothing to do with the historical serial killer.

    Pinball 
  • The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot: Except for the title, no one ever refers to the titular Machine as "Bride".
  • No Fear: Dangerous Sports has the "No Limits" Major Challenge, where the value of each shot starts at 20 million points, and each one collected adds another million... only to cap out at 70 million.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 
  • The 1946 Broadway musical Park Avenue was set entirely on Long Island.

    Videogames 
  • The Legend of Zelda isn't always about Zelda. One game only mentions her once at the very beginning (she never appears), one only included her in a flashback, and two others only contain her if both are played in tandem. What's more, aside from portions of Spirit Tracks and two of the non-canon CD-i games, you never play as her. All this leads to a massive case of I Am Not Shazam for poor non-eponymous hero Link.
  • You do not get to Destroy All Humans!, though you get to Destroy All Martians in the second one.
  • Final Fantasy has many sequels.
  • The "Soulless Army" is merely the first indicator that something is amiss, and really does not have a whole lot of impact on the plot, itself.
  • X is not the main character of Mega Man X7.
    • The Mega Man Star Force series focuses more on electromagnetic waves than stars or space. Star Force 2 doesn't have anything to do with stars! As for the "Star Force," it's just a power that MegaMan gets in the first game but has nothing to do with the other two games; there's only a vague mention of it in Star Force 3.
  • There are models and diagrams of Metal Gear in Metal Gear Solid 3, but they don't have any real bearing on the story other than as easter eggs. Nor is the character Solid Snake present, but Hideo Kojima stated the "solid" in the title refers to the series's transition to "solid" polygonal graphics, so it isn't this trope.
  • The eponymous wars of Guild Wars ended before the earliest events in the game.
  • Chrono Trigger. The actual Chrono Trigger impacts the plot only briefly - and even then, optionally, as it's possible to go ahead and fight the final boss without completing the part of the story that involves it. (Adding insult to injury, it's even referred to more often as the "Time Egg".)
    • This is less the case in Chrono Cross; while the eponymous item arguably spends less time relevant to the story than the Chrono Trigger, it is of much greater overall significance what with being the piece of Phlebotinum that's supposed to reintegrate the timelines and kill the Time Devourer off once and for all.
    • Although the Chrono Trigger item is relatively insignificant, the description that's given to it ("It is pure potential. By unleashing a specific course of events, it can have a powerful effect on time... It represents a possibility, it may or may not hatch.") applies equally well to the party, meaning that the time travelers themselves are a kind of Chrono Trigger. It gets a little meta.
    • Speaking of misleading titles in Chrono Cross, one would not expect a song called Scars of Time to be so damn funky!
  • Plumbers Dont Wear Ties. In one scene early on in the "game", John is seen playing air guitar with a plunger while wearing a tie.
  • Metroid Prime Hunters does not involve Metroids or any incarnation of Metroid Prime at all. It includes creatures that attack in a similar manner to Metroids, but not Metroids themselves. (Though the demo version, First Hunt, that was included with DS systems at launch, did include Metroids.)
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - The eponymous scrolls get one mention in the game itself, and it's also the fifth game in the series...
    • Arguably the name Morrowind implies that you will be journeying across the entire province, when in reality you are limited to the island of Vvardenfell. Obviously this is located in Morrowind, but it still could be considered misleading.
    • The Elder Scrolls is awful about this, to date the eponymous scrolls have only been relevant in Oblivion (as a relatively unimportant MacGuffin) and Skyrim where it's really only important once. The subtitles are accurate though, although Oblivion would be more properly called Cyrodiil to be in line with the other titles being placenames.
    • Well, Oblivion IS a place in the TES universe.
    • The first Elder Scrolls game Arena doesn't have any arenas in it.
      • Fortunately, that's been handily dealt with: "Arena" is believed to be the translation of Nirn, from the language the earliest of the spiritual beings who took part in the creation of the world, the Ehlnofey.
      • Or "Arena" is a figurative way of describing the constant state of strife that Tamriel is in. Any number of Hand Waves exist.
  • The Minecraft Pocket Edition contains neither mining nor crafting.
    • And since it is also available for many tablets, the "Pocket Edition" part is not entirely true either...
  • The Mega Drive version of Action 52 falls into this, as it really only has 51 games. Several games across both versions also fall into this problem:
    • Dam Busters, which doesn't feature a dam at any point in the game.
    • Haunted Hill in both versions, although the NES version sometimes goes under the more apt Haunted Halls.
    • Slashers sounds like the name of a horror movie, but it's really a poor man's Double Dragon.
    • Bits n Pieces, which sounds like a puzzle game (even the manual suggests this) but it's actually a horror-themed game where you jump over monsters.
    • Mind's Eye, which is a Minesweeper clone.
    • Slalom, which is a regular skiing game as opposed to having an actual slalom event.
      • Incidentally, Rare did a NES game of the same name which also has no slaloming involved.
    • Paratrooper, which consists of collecting giant computer chips or something.
  • Girly Block is a Mecha Game by Compile for the MSX2. No, there are no anime girls to be seen.

    Webcomics 
  • MS Paint Adventures is really only 3 stories and 1 Orphaned Series and the current one hasn't actually been an adventure note  in over a year. And nothing aside from the first panel of the first adventure has been made in MS Paint.
    • Also, Homestuck is only about a kid stuck in his house for about a few dozen pages out of several thousand. Apparently Andrew Hussie was going to name it Sburb, the name of the game on which the story is based, but thought it was too boring.
  • "Faraway Morning and Three Short Tales" is the title of the 34th chapter of Gunnerkrigg Court which actually does have characters telling three short tales. Sounds like a short chapter, right? It's actually one of the longest chapters to date thanks to all of the Character Development and plot revelations going on between each of the tales.
  • The protagonist of Damsels Don't Wear Glasses does wear glasses.

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • The Smurfs episode "Hefty And The Wheelsmurfer" is called "Fortachon y Pitufina" ("Hefty And Smurfette") in the Spanish dub, despite the fact that the episode isn't exclusively about Hefty and Smurfette in any sort of relationship. Perhaps a bit of Fan Shipping took place when the developers of the Spanish dub were looking for a suitable title for the episode?
  • In Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising, the Predacons are very minor side characters who have little to no impact on the overall plot. Technically, some Predacons are risen, however they are zombies who fight against the real Predacons. The title probably came to be because Hasbro wanted to advertise their beast-themed Transformers figures, even if the movie's story barely focused on them.

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