The Darned Title

Posted on Mar 11th, 2011
Categories: writing

The last two words written for Eloquent Ruby were the ones that went into the title. The funny thing is that the idea behind the book never wavered: Write a book that would explain how Ruby is really used, with an emphasis on topics that ‘we all know’.

So the theme of the book was easy, what was hard was coming up with a title. Initially it was going to be Effective Ruby, a homage to one of the most influential Java books ever. Unfortunately, there is a fine line between homage and copyright infringement and the AW lawyers were, well, nervous.

So, then we turned to Elegant Ruby. I never liked that title much, but it was what we wrote on the contract just to get the ball rolling. For a while I tried to convince myself that Fluent In Ruby or maybe Fluent Ruby would work, but the fact is that I hated both.

Then I thought I found the solution: Elements of Ruby Style. “You’re kidding, right?” said the lawyers. By this time we were in the midst of copy editing, the small matter of actually writing a 400 page book a quick stroll in the library compared to the serious task of picking a title.

Fine I said, Elegant Ruby it is. The final touches were going into the MS when I heard that no, because of some other stuff that was going on, Elegant wouldn’t work either. At this point my wife Karen, a calm and wise woman, said these calm and wise words: “We do own a thesaurus, you know.”

And so we did, and right there near Elegant was Eloquent. And Eloquent Ruby it was. Then a few days after the book was officially published, I heard from Marijn Haverbeke, author of Eloquent Javascript. Sigh. I had no idea there was another eloquent programming book out there.

But it all works out. While the saga of the title seemed to stretch on for half my life, the folks at AW have had to put up with a lot more from me than vise versa. And Marijn turned out to be one of those wonderful people that you meet in the twists and turns of life. So it’s all good.


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