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Suppose in a fit of insanity I decide to title my novel Vacuum Cleaners of Venus. Not only is this a horrendous title — imagine the cover painting! — but the novel has no vacuum cleaners in it, and does not take place on Venus. . . . Though the phrase cannot be found in the story as it stands, I can forcibly insert it. I can make a character exclaim, “Vacuum cleaners of Venus!” I can plaster the phrase onto the nose cone of her starship. I can trail it across her skyline on advertising banners towed by winged dragons phasing in and out of Between. I can blare it from her stereo speakers as she powers her TIE fighter in toward the Death Star. The omnipotence of an author is a terrible and awful thing.

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 in mind that some of these are examples where the literal thing to which the title refers is not that significant, but the title is still thematically linked to the work or Makes Sense In Context, so it's not really trivial. For example, In these cases, it may overlap with Justified Title. There is one advantage to having a title like this: you almost never have to worry about it becoming an Artifact Title, because it's more likely to be generally applicable to anything in that series of works.

A subtrope of Never Trust a Title. Sister trope of Deceptively Silly Title. See Secondary Character Title if the story is named after a minor character. Compare Non-Indicative Name. May be a consequence of Artifact Title or overlap with Self-Referential Track Placement. Can be used to avoid a Spoiler Title.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: Many people assume that 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. The final arc begins to reveal just how important this theme actually is to the story as a whole; as it turns out, the title may look innocuous but it's actually highly significant.
  • Charlotte: None of the main characters share the name with the series. The name actually comes from the comet that flies past Earth every 75 years trailing dust that falls onto Earth. This dust is what gives children their powers.
  • Odin: Photon Space Sailer Starlight: The UK English dub is retitled Odin: Starlight Mutiny. Although there is a mutiny for about three minutes, it's a very nonviolent mutiny and involves nothing more than locking the captain, bosun, and ship's doctor in the officers lounge. The mutiny is not the central plot of the movie but the mystery of the planet Odin and the malevolent machines of Asgard are the actual focus of the story. Oh, and the officers are released after the crew proves that they can't even stage a competent mutiny, let alone man the ship themselves, something the officers anticipated, hence their nonchalance during the incident. The mutiny was really just a plot device to ensure that the crew answer the Call to Adventure (Odin!) instead of obeying orders and going home; notably, the Captain was relieved that the mutiny took this decision off his hands as he obviously also wanted to answer the call as well.

    Films – Animation 
  • For its initial US release, Rock and Rule had its title changed to Ring of Power, referring to Mok's ring which only comes up in one scene near the start when he uses it to find the singer he needs for his plan and then it's never used again.

    Films – Live-Action 
  • Abbot of Shaolin: The titular Abbot died twenty minutes into the film, and was promptly forgotten for the remaining 70-odd minutes of the movie's runtime.
  • Bart Got A Room is a statement regarding the least popular student in the school, who still managed to get a hotel room for him and his date after the prom. Bart himself only appears briefly in the film.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The title of the British movie Divorcing Jack refers to how the protagonist mishears the last name of composer Antonín Dvořák 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.
  • Fargo: Only the first scene, where Jerry hires Gaear and Carl, is set in the titular town. The main settings are Brainerd and Minneapolis.
  • A Fish Called Wanda is named after Ken's pet fish, which has very little to do with the plot. Certainly less than the human Wanda.
  • Green Zone is named after the term commonly used to refer to the area in Baghdad that was the governmental center of the Coalition Provisional Authority after the invasion of Iraq. It's referenced, but most of the film takes place outside of it, and it doesn't play a particularly important role in the plot.
  • In The Ghost of Frankenstein, the Ghost is on screen for about 60 seconds.
  • Heaven's Gate is a very nihilistic take on The Western in which evil ranchers set about murdering immigrant settlers. The film climaxes with an epic battle. The movie is named after the skating rink in town. While the skating rink is the setting for at least half an hour of the film's run-time, it doesn't have any relevance to the plot in and of itself.
  • In The Kissing Booth, the titular kissing booth is only in one scene and doesn't have very much relevance to the plot, other than being the site of Elle and Noah's first kiss. It has an even shorter appearance in The Kissing Booth 2, appearing in one scene three-quarters through the movie's runtime.
  • Kiss of the Dragon: The title isn't literal, which is a given considering the film is about drug smugglers, but it doesn't even come into play until the very end; it's the move Johnny uses to kill the villain.
  • Licorice Pizza is set in Los Angeles in 1973 and named after a record store chain that had outlets in the San Fernando Valley in that era, but the record store plays no role in the story and none is ever seen in the movie. Director Paul Thomas Anderson said in an interview that basically he just liked the way the name sounded. More broadly, the title is also a euphemism for a vinyl record - a texture resembling black licorice and a shape resembling a pizza - and the movie is filled with classic '70s songs, but music isn't really central to the plot either.
  • Lion is Based on a True Story about an Indian child named Saroo who gets lost in Calcutta, is adopted by an Australian couple and later tracks down his birth family. The title goes unexplained until just before the closing credits, when text informs us that after the events of the movie, he learns that "Saroo" is actually a childish mispronunciation of his real name, Sheru, which means "LION." The movie clearly thinks that this is very significant, but exactly why is up to the viewer to determine.
  • M.F.A. refers to Master of Fine Arts: the degree Noelle is undertaking. The film is a Rape and Revenge thriller.
  • Midnight: Even with its fairy-tale allusion, the stroke of midnight doesn't play a major role like in Cinderella.
  • In the Troma movie Plutonium Baby, the titular plutonium baby doesn't appear until right at the end.
  • The Prowler: The actual prowler only appears in the opening scene of the film. Webb later uses the prowler's existence to justify his shooting of John, but in no way is the prowler ever the main focus.
  • Raw Deal (1986) never explicitly references a raw deal, much less one where the titular character is in a position where it's appropriate to say "Nobody gives him a raw deal". By implication, it's the situation where he was given an option of "Retire or be prosecuted" by the FBI after he assaulted a witness, but this took place five years before the film starts, he is engaged with a (almost) completely different adversary instead, and it has almost nothing to do with the plot apart from explaining his circumstances at the beginning of the film and a callback line at the end. This is probably because the title was changed several times in production from "Triple Identity" which at least has *some* relevance to the plot to the more generic action-sounding final title.
  • 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. According to Word of God, it refers a person's Happy Place... which doesn't factor in the film at all. Initially, the title referred to the fact the film was intended to be stage play that did in fact only take place in one room, making it an Artifact Title from the initial concept.
  • Rush Hour: There's a Title Drop in the first five minutes and the kidnapping that sets the plot off occurs during rush hour... but that's about it.
  • The Counter-Earth seen in the sky in Another Earth seems to imply that the movie is about an Alternate Timeline or even The Multiverse to some extent that our characters are going to interact with. However, the film is mostly about a by-the-books redemption story of a girl who accidentally crashed her car and killed another mans' family; with the whole Second Earth in the daytime sky bearing very little relevance to the plot.
  • The title Six Reasons Why seems to have no relevance to the events of the film whatsoever.note 
  • The eponymous bees in The Spirit of the Beehive are only featured in one scene, though the design and lighting of the manor house carries a beehive motif.
  • The Subspecies series is named after a small race of creatures who barely factor into the movies.
  • It is not even clear what The Suckers is supposed to refer to. Presumably it is the employees of the modelling agency and Jeff for falling into Vandemeer's trap, with secondary sexual innuendo meaning. However, neither of these interpretations has much to do with film's Hunting the Most Dangerous Game plot.
  • Sweetheart: Jennifer washes up on a desert island, where she is threatened by a monster. Half way through the film two more survivors wash up, and one of them calls Jennifer "sweetheart", once.
  • The Tall T: "The Tall T" is the name of Tenvoorde's ranch, which Pat visits in one scene early in the movie. It has nothing to do with the rest of the story, which involves Pat and the three other people on a stagecoach being kidnapped by murderous bandits.

  • 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.
  • Discworld:
    • 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".
    • While octarine is an interesting aspect of the early worldbuilding in the Discworld books, it's not especially important to The Colour of Magic.
    • The Light Fantastic refers to the anti-light glow in the Octavo room, which is likewise not very significant to the story.
  • The Winter Queen, the first book in the Erast Fandorin series of detective novels. The title is a random reference to the hotel where Fandorin stays while in London. Averted with the original Russian-language edition, which is titled Azazel after the secret society which is central to the plot.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is about Harry being entered into a contest called the Triwizard Tournament against his will; the titular Goblet of Fire is just the device that picks contestants and only shows up for about two chapters, as opposed to some important MacGuffin.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: Gardens of the Moon refers to a story Apsalar's father used to tell her when she was a child. It has no impact on the book's story and only is mentioned by her at the very end once.
  • 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).
  • State of Fear. The title refers to the thesis that the U.S. 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.
  • Trainspotting contains just one instance of trainspotting. But that's still one more than The Film of the Book. Though, with the film now having undergone some Pop-Cultural Osmosis, "trainspotting" has come to be a euphemism for taking heroin. So in that sense the book contains a great deal of trainspotting.
  • Warrior Cats: Moonrise seems to have gotten its name from a cat mentioning the moonrise at one point.
  • Neal Stephenson's Zodiac takes its name from the style of inflatable boats used around Boston harbor. The main character rides a zodiac on a few occasions, including one nautical chase scene, but the boats don't factor majorly into the plot.
  • Grass and Sky is how Timmi refers to a difficult jigsaw puzzle owned by Grampy that features grass and sky with only a thin strip of ocean between them.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The title itself. "The Song of Ice and Fire" is mentioned in a prophecy concerning the Prince That Was Promised, a messianic figure said to be born into House Targaryen. However, nobody knows what it means, whether it is an actual song or a figurative phrase. It is only scantly mentioned in the five books that have been released, so while it is obviously going to be an important plot point in the future, for now its significance is minimal.
    • A Dance with Dragons refers to two things, both of which happen near the end, and are largely trivial to the overall plot. The first is Daenerys Targaryen successfully reining Drogon, becoming the first dragon rider in more than a century. The second, which leads to a Title Drop, is Quentyn Martell releasing Rhaegal and Viserion in a failed attempt to tame them, which ends up roasting him to death.
      Barristan Selmy: Not all men are meant to dance with dragons.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: While three out of seven main characters are physicists, the only one whose field of work tangentially relates to studies of the origin of time is Sheldon, and even then he switched to studying dark matter and its applications for a time. And, of course, the series in general is more about the characters than about their jobs.
  • Black Saddle: Clay Culhane uses a distinctive black saddle when he rides. Others occasionally identify him by the saddle, but it otherwise has no bearing on the stories.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The title of the series itself is a subversion. The question "Doctor who?" has always been a clarification to new audience members that the character's name is just "the Doctor" and not "Doctor [surname]." In series 6 of the new era, the question – and therefore, the title – was given significance as The Reveal of the Doctor's name and the end of the universe (probably).
    • The very first serial of the show is usually marketed under the title "An Unearthly Child". While this is the title of the first episode of the serial and fits it very well, it has practically no relation to the later three episodes aside from the titular character (Susan) being present. As such, some fans insist on referring to the serial as a whole as "100,000 B.C." instead, and a few think the serial should be considered two separate stories.
    • "The Bells of Saint John": The title refers to a throwaway line about the TARDIS phone and has nothing to do with the Evil Wi-Fi plot at all.
  • The Good Place: "Chidi Sees the Time Knife" is named for a one-off gag that has no effect on the plot — Chidi accidentally falls into a hole in the IHOP and is briefly freaked out by seeing "trillions of realities, folding onto each other like thin sheets of metal forming a single blade", Michael brushes this off as something everyone's seen, and the conversation just moves on.
  • The Happy Apple refers to a line in the first episode about how it is easier to sell "a happy apple" than "a sad fig".
  • Almost every ''Taskmaster episode (in all versions) is named after something random said by a contestant, the Taskmaster, or the Taskmaster's Assistant.
  • Every episode of Two and a Half Men is named for a line of dialogue in the script, more often than not the weirdest and most random line in the episode rather than one that has anything to do with the episode's plot.

  • The Beatles' "Hey Bulldog" was originally called "Hey Bullfrog", but it was changed because Paul McCartney started barking during the recording, prompting John Lennon to change the lyric to "Bulldog" on the fly so that it made sense in context. The title then had to change to match the lyric, making it a Non-Appearing Title based on some spontaneous goofiness by the song's secondary writer.

    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. The game was a few editions in before Sigmar or Ghal Maraz even existed as concepts, originally the name was just to sound cool.
  • Warhammer 40,000 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. "40,000" refers to the whole 41st Millennium, as the in-universe present year is actually 40,999 AD (and has been the 'present' for all editions of the game). As of 8th edition it isn't even the 41st millennium anymore, although thanks to Timey-Wimey Ball it's a bit uncertain what the new date actually is.
  • Downplayed in Wingspan. The bird cards do have listed wingspans, but few game pieces care about them. With that said, the title also works as a nod to the bird theme as a whole.


    Video Games 
  • Counterfeit Monkey: The title comes from the Counterfeit Monkey, a bar you visit to look for Slango in the mid-game (he's not there). You're not there for a very long time, and it's a minor part of the game.
  • Disco Elysium: "Elysium" is a poetic name for the world and disco was very popular in Revachol, the actual Title Drop happens in two occasions:
    • An abandoned church can be converted into a nightclub and named "Disco Elysium" or the game's original title "No Truce With The Furies".
    • When you burn Cindy's fuel graffiti you can choose a Battle Cry, which includes "Disco Elysium!" or "Disco Infernum!", "You've been policed!" or the racist nationalist slogan "Welcome to Revachol."
  • Dubloon is titled after the currency used in the game that has no bearing to its plot.
  • 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. Its first DLC, Dawnguard, also makes them important, as three are required to complete the main quest.
  • You might assume Kabuki Z is a game about Kabuki Theatre, but in actuality it's a rather generic Hack and Slash game set in Feudal Japan where you play as a samurai hacking up stuff via katana. The only reference to Kabuki is the first boss, dressed in a Kabuki theater outfit but can be defeated in under a minute, who has nothing to do with the rest of the game.
  • Marvel: Avengers Alliance does feature The Avengers, but also features several Marvel superheroes who are not Avengers. The name of the team is hardly used in the game. Instead, the heroes are joining S.H.I.E.L.D..
  • Mass Effect refers to a scientific effect that's behind all the science-fiction technology in the game, from shields to faster than light travel. It has literally zero importance as a plot element, however, and if you don't read the Codex entries it isn't mentioned by name until halfway into the second game.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry features "When the Cicadas Cry". While cicadas aren't completely irrelevant (their chirping is used as atmospheric background music during some scenes and they are often mentioned as a recurring motif), the true meaning of the title is a play on words - the Japanese word for "cicadas" is similar to the Japanese word for "murderer".

    Web Animation 
  • Despite Epithet Erased's title, epithet erasure does not play a very big role in the story: in the web series, it only happens to one character (Sylvie), and even then it quickly gets undone, and in Epithet Erased: Prison of Plastic, the concept is barely even alluded to at all.

    Web Comics 
  • Disscused in Allen the Alien; Elanis complains about these types of titles, directly referencing "The Scarlet Ibis"note .
  • Cans of Beans is about a werewolf and his relationship with his new roommate. The title comes from an early page, where the werewolf's coworker remarks that he's unsure if their store sells cans of beans. Word of God says that the title is also supposed to recall the phrase "can of worms," since secrets and their resulting drama are a big part of the story.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: The title of Chapter 23, "Terror Castle of the Jupiter Moon Martians", refers to one of Dr. Disaster's retro sci-fi themed simulation missions. Although the chapter does start with Annie, Parley and Smitty in the titular simulation, it's wrapped up in three pages as a Fake-Out Opening, and the rest of the chapter is about the trio's medium training.
  • Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name is about a zombie(?) with Ghost Amnesia who becomes an Occult Detective alongside a goofy guy with an implied Dark and Troubled Past. The fact that the latter has a Gender-Blender Name is not particularly important to the story, though it does get a Title Drop on the second page.
  • Sleepless Domain: The comic's namesake appears to be an In-Universe Magical Girl celebrity magazine, as can be seen on the cover of the first chapter. The magazine itself has made no appearance in the comic proper.
  • Terra refers to the United Earth Coalition space station Terra which also has Sol's jumpgate. So far the only importance to the plot is that it's the place where Alex and Rick's fighter squadron is based. They leave it behind after chapter three and the pair are shot down a dozen pages later.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • "Heat Signature" begins with Finn and Jake going to Marceline's house to show her the eponymous movie, but the episode quickly deviates from that and becomes about Marceline and her ghost friends tricking Finn and Jake into thinking they are vampires. Only at the end of the episode do they actually watch Heat Signature.
    • The title character of "James Baxter the Horse" has a relatively minor role by showing up to cheer up BMO at the start of the episode, but kicks off the plot by inspiring Finn and Jake to try spreading good cheer like him.
    • "Mama Said" doesn't seem to have anything to do with anything until the end. After the King of Ooo knocks himself out trying to fly on a mushroom pizza, the Banana Guards randomly break out singing a verse of "Mama Said" by the Shirelles.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: The episode "The Triangle" is about Gumball's jealousy over Darwin's talent in band, and him subsequently being accused of trying to sabotage Darwin's performance. The title refers to the instrument Gumball was assigned to play, which he never even tries to use.
  • 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.
    • While the episode "Bogus In Bogus Land" references the fact that we see Bogusland for the first time, this only happens in the first act of the episode.
  • The title character of the Bozo: The World's Most Famous Clown episode "Broken Bones Jones" is a demolition derby driver who appears for only about a minute, driving his car up and down a pair of ramps. The cartoon itself dealt with the chaos Bozo causes taking a foreign sports car for a test drive.
  • Mad Jack the Pirate: The episode "The Treasure Of The Headless, Left-Handed, Peatmoss Salesman" starts with Mad Jack looking for the titular treasure until a cop finds out his license expired a long time ago. Mad Jack spends most of the episode at the DMMV tring to renew it so he can resume his search and, once he fails, he gives up on the treasure and gets a job at the DMMV. The treasure is merely mentioned.note 
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: The episode titles "Follow That Feather" and "Operation Anvil" are about each episode's last attempt to stop Yankee Doodle Pigeon and have nothing to do with the other attempts.
  • Rick and Morty: "The Ricklantis Mixup" has nothing to do with the duo's adventure to the lost city of Atlantis . It's an episode about the Citadel of Ricks. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize that the word "Mixup" is intentionally in the title to throw a curveball at the audience.
  • Teen Titans Go! has the episode "Batman V Teen Titans: Dark Injustice". Batman does not appear in the episode whatsoever (it is actually an April Fools' Plot), and the title is actually a reference to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was released at around the same time as when the episode originally premiered.
  • The 1970 edition of The Archie Show was titled Archie's Funhouse Starring the Giant Jukebox. The titular jukebox served no other purpose except for flashy decoration and appeared sporadically for seconds at a time.