On titles of publications in earlier times

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Why did ancient publications so often start with 'on'? E.g. on the theory of... Why didn't they regard 'on' as redundant if all publications started with the same word, like emails starting with 'about' or 'on'?
 

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  • #2
Bystander
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"It's complicated...."
 
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Why did ancient publications so often start with 'on'? E.g. on the theory of... Why didn't they regard 'on' as redundant if all publications started with the same word, like emails starting with 'about' or 'on'?
Without "on" it would mean the entire theory. With "on" it's only a part of it. This makes a huge difference.
 
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  • #4
Baluncore
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On the subject of on-going discussion, as the subject is expanded and the implications are investigated, the field gradually becomes better defined and internally consistent.

Regarding emails, the title of continuations begin with Re: ...
A new thread on a new subject does not begin with Re:
 
  • #5
f95toli
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It is still used but perhaps not in the titles of science papers.
Have you never used the phrase "While we are on the subject of..."? Or perhaps "while we are on the topic"?
It is (presumably?) using the same structure.

I did actually try to write a paper that had a title that started with "on the" a few years ago (not to be funny, but because I thought it would be appropriate considering the content), but the editor changed the title:frown:..
 
  • #6
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It is still used but perhaps not in the titles of science papers.
Have you never used the phrase "While we are on the subject of..."? Or perhaps "while we are on the topic"?
It is (presumably?) using the same structure.

I did actually try to write a paper that had a title that started with "on the" a few years ago (not to be funny, but because I thought it would be appropriate considering the content), but the editor changed the title:frown:..
That's interesting. What was the editor's reason?
 
  • #7
jasonRF
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I actually published a paper (in a peer reviewed journal) with a title that began “on the …”. In hindsight I don’t particularly like the title, but I was still in grad school when I wrote it so hopefully it can be forgiven.

I hope this doesn’t mean I’m ancient. 😯
 
  • #8
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Freely speculating here. What could have happened was that back in the day publications were written in Latin. They'd often start with 'de' (i.e. 'about', 'on', etc.), as in De revolutionibus orbium caelestium, De motu corporum (in Principia). Possibly not as much because it's linguistically necessary to frame this kind of a sentence that way, and more because that's the standard structure that was taught in academia (it being a dead language for a long time now).
When translated into English, the form 'on' has a bit more dignified register than something like 'about', so it'd be preferred.
As Latin ceased to be the lingua franca of the scientific community, people still carried on with the 'on', by linguistic inertia. I.e. if you were writing a paper, you'd use sentence structures that were traditionally associated with the scientific context.
But the further away from the Latin roots, the more archaic and pompous it sounds, so there's little love left for the 'ons' in the eye of a modern editor.

That's the story I came up with o0)
 
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  • #9
f95toli
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Coincidentally,. this paper appeared in my feed this morning

On the static effective Hamiltonian of a rapidly driven nonlinear system​


https://arxiv.org/abs/2108.02861
Which I guess shows that it is indeed still used
 
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  • #10
Keith_McClary
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I actually published a paper (in a peer reviewed journal) with a title that began “on the …”.
Me too, twice.
 
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DaveC426913
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The best boiler-plate lead-in for any paper, ever, has got to be:

Harry Potter and the ... static effective Hamiltonian of a rapidly driven nonlinear system
 
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  • #12
atyy
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Coincidentally,. this paper appeared in my feed this morning

On the static effective Hamiltonian of a rapidly driven nonlinear system​


https://arxiv.org/abs/2108.02861
Which I guess shows that it is indeed still used
It's not yet accepted in a peer-reviewed journal. Its title will change then.
 
  • #13
atyy
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That's interesting. What was the editor's reason?
Modern style. In ancient times, people had time to read papers. Now they only have time to read titles :frown: So the result must be in the title.
 
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  • #14
Keith_McClary
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Modern style. In ancient times, people had time to read papers. Now they only have time to read titles :frown: So the result must be in the title.
Are titles allowed to be longer in the digital age?
 
  • #15
George Jones
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Could we change the title of this thread to "On Ancient publications starting with 'On'"?
 
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  • #16
DaveC426913
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Could we change the title of this thread to "On Ancient publications starting with 'On'"?
+1 please
 
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