You can’t judge a story by its title

The One Big Happy in today’s comics feed:

The assigned story was “The Princess and the Pea”, but Joe had heard only the title (and a bit of the plot), so /pi/ could have been the letter P, or (bizarrely) the vegetable pea, or (given the mention of mattresses) urine, pee. Joe goes with what he knows, and, having not actually read the story, confabulates a tale of enuresis.

Background 1. The story, from Wikipedia:

“The Princess and the Pea” (Danish: “Prinsessen paa Ærten”; literal translation: “The Princess on the Pea”) is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a young woman whose royal identity is established by a test of her physical sensitivity. The tale was first published with three others by Andersen in an inexpensive booklet on 8 May 1835 in Copenhagen by C. A. Reitzel.

Background 2. Books with letter names in their titles. A huge number, including James Thurber’s The Wonderful O and a bunch with Q, like Jonathan Rabb’s The Book of Q — and Andrew Conn’s P: A Novel.

On to the language play in the title of this posting. The basis is the metaphorical idiom

NOT judge a book by its cover ‘NOT trust outward appearances’

manifested in several variants:

Don’t / Never  judge a book  by / from  its / the  cover,

You  can’t / shouldn’t judge a book by / from  (looking at)  its / the cover.

(and the earlier: You can’t tell a book by its cover.)

Similarly: you can’t judge a story (or a book) by its title. Who would have thought that Dorothy L. Sayers’s The Nine Tailors was a murder mystery about, among other things, change-ringing?

Musical bonus: Bo Diddley, who you can listen to here. From Wikipedia:

“You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” is a 1962 song by rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley. Written by Willie Dixon, the song was one of Diddley’s last record chart hits. Unlike many of his well-known songs, “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” does not rely on the Bo Diddley beat. A variety of rock and other performers have recorded renditions of the song.

The text:

You can’t judge an apple by looking at a tree
You can’t judge honey by looking at the bee
You can’t judge a daughter by looking at the mother
You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover

(Nice half-rhyme in mother … cover.)

And you can’t judge the story by looking for the pee.

One Response to “You can’t judge a story by its title”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Benita Bendon Campbell on Facebook:

    Lyrics by Irving Berlin 1919: “You’d be surprised” “…he doesn’t look like much of a lover, but don’t judge a book by its cover…”

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