An article in this week’s The Chronicle of Higher Education
(“No Mark of Distinction” –
examines the use of colons in academic book titles.
Several university press editors weight in on the subject: most begrudgingly accept their use.
Many scholarly works include a teaser title, followed by a more descriptive one
(e.g., “The divided mind: ideology and imagination in America, 1898-1917”).
Supposedly the colon is a mark of distinction.
The Dillion Hypothesis of Titular Colonicity even claims that they are “the primary correlate of scholarship”
The use of colons and longer titles in general are
both a throwback to the grandiose inscripts of yesteryear
(e.g., “Observations on man, his frame, his duty, and his expectations”)
and bear similarities to the
search engine-optimized titles
used by some web pages.