What’s in a name?

From the plain humorous to the downright absurd, I’ve been on the lookout for funny paper titles in the recent months. So here’s a small collection of what I’ve found. Not all have clever titles, some rather seem to be genuinely weird due to their content. But I’ll take what I can get. Here goes:

Wilhelm, Kaltwasser, & Hildebrandt: Will the Real Factors of Prosociality Please Stand Up? A Comment on Böckler, Tusche, and Singer (2016)

This is the one that got me started on this a few months ago, when I was researching some personality literature. What usually makes these titles work for me is the juxtaposition of these silly references with the formality of academese. Like here, where it sounds like old grey-haired men are referencing Eminem.

O’Neill & Russel: “Stop! Grammar time: University students’ perceptions of the automated feedback programm Grammarly”

This one follows the same hilarious formula, but, in my opinion, works a little better. I guess it is because the ludicrous first part is short and sweet and ties in better with the rest of the title, where Wilhelm et al.’s was a little bumpy and artificial.

McConnell, Brown, Shoda, Stayton, & Martin: Friends with benefits: on the positive consequences of pet ownership.

This one is…weird. Either the authors either *really* wanted to catch readers attention (it worked for me) or they collectively weren’t aware of the fact that this phrase has a very specific meaning. I’m surprised this wasn’t prevented by the editor.

Sendler: Similar mechanisms of traumatic rectal injuries in patients who had anal sex with animals to those who were butt-fisted by human sexual partner.

Now this is something else entirely. As far as I can tell, no deliberate attempt at humor was made here but that doesn’t mean it isn’t severely WTF. There’s actually an interesting backstory to this. It seems that the sole author of the paper, Damian Sendler, is somewhat of a fraudster who loves to publish on erotic asphyxiation, zoophilia and the likes. Contrary to what his vita says, he is not a medical doctor and didn’t got to Harvard. There’s some interesting investigations on him here and here

Chaddock, Neider, Hillmann, Kramer: Role of childhood aerobic fitness in successful street crossing.

Now, I’m 100% sure this one is not trying to be funny and the topic is actually quite serious, but there’s something weirdly hilarious about how the title is phrased. Fortunately, this trial was conducted in a virtual reality environment. Oh, and if this title made you curious, indeed, the fitter children were more successful at crossing the street.

Sagi & Yechiam: Amusing titles in scientific journals and article citation

To end this admittedly pointless blog post with a little lesson: Should we try to shoot for funny in our next paper? This study suggests no. Here, highly amusing titles received less citations. If you still want to get ambitious with your title choice, shoot instead for pleasantness, as this was moderately and positively associated with citations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s