Friday, 2 March 2012

What Can We Learn From 22,777 Harlequin Titles? Part I

I recently came across an interesting article from two local academics. "The Texas Billionaire's Pregnant Bride: An Evolutionary Interpretation of Romance Fiction Titles" is in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology (vol 3, no. 4). The thesis is that "the titles of Harlequin romance novels would address women's sex-specific mating interests." This would happen through selection by editors of words for titles that sell books. Words in titles of books that don't sell as well would be used less often.

The authors did a word count on 22,777 (not a typo) Harlequin titles in 24 series from 1949 to 2009. The top five words were love, bride, baby, man and marriage. Three occupations are in the top 20 words - doctor, cowboy and nurse. In an aside the authors note that professor showed up less times than viking (6 vs. 9). The full article is here.

All the titles from the first ten years were included. Ironically among the very few titles named are some non-romance books as the authors explain their rationale for including them. A few are shown below. Also shown are two of the seven books from 1949 to 1959 that have the most popular word in their title - love.

Harlequin 51 - May 1950

Harlequin 391 - April 1957

Harelquin 435 - August 1958

Harlequin 167 - May 1952

Harlequin 462 - May 1959

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