Actual headline: “Hyperbolic Geometry Defeats Nazi Spoons in Odd Title Contest”

The best part is, it actually happened. A British trade magazine has a contest every year to find the oddest book title, and this year winner is that classic of applied mathematics: “Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes”. Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the highest honor in the book-publishing world, I think any publicity for hyperbolic geometry is good publicity. I’ll confess though, I would have voted for “Collectable Spoons of the Third Reich.”

14 thoughts on “Actual headline: “Hyperbolic Geometry Defeats Nazi Spoons in Odd Title Contest”

  1. Well, I do have to hand it to “The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais.” They deserved that one. To me “The Large Sieve and its Apllications” sounds completely normal, whereas the crocheting title at least comes across as slightly quirky.

  2. Well, of course, “The large sieve and its applications” sounds perfectly normal! What title could possibly fit better a book about the large sieve and, well, some applications thereof?

  3. I think part of the issue might be that be that “sieve” is not an everyday word in the US, which makes its out-of-context appearance less funny. Most Americans don’t have a kitchen appliance we would describe as a “sieve” whereas I get the sense British people do.

  4. Ben, I have the same issue. “Sieve” for me is almost exclusively a mathematical word, so I suspect for non-mathematical speakers of American English it’s very strange-sounding.

  5. Ben, I’ve eaten things you baked. They were delicious. Do you not sift your flour? Do you not do it with a sieve?

  6. @David and John- I’m making a terminological point. I of course have a colander, probably have a strainer somewhere, and know many people with sifters. But it would sound like an absurd Britishism to me to call these “sieves.” Also, due to technological advances, it’s not really necessary to sift flour any more, so I generally don’t.

  7. Ben, in British English a collander is a collander and a strainer is a strainer. Only a sieve is a sieve. So I guess it’s what you call a sifter. You certainly sift things with a sieve. (You drain things with a collander and strain them with a strainer.)

  8. I see a rare opportunity to share a story, and I’m going to seize it. At the beginning of my second year of college I moved into a new dorm and my unpacked but unsorted belongings were lying randomly about the room. A friend visited me, and — in the midst of (i) trying to put some of my things away and (ii) a conversation about how my girlfriend from the previous year now apparently wanted nothing to do with me — I asked him to hand me the calendar on the table. With no hesitation he picked up a kitchen implement on the table and gave it to me. This stopped me cold for a few seconds, while I wondered what had happened. Then I said, “Actually, I meant the CALENDAR, not the COLLANDER.” Then we shared a moment of awed realization: we had just had a verbal exchange which was too good to be true.

    P.S.: My girlfriend dumped me the next day. I never found out why.

    P.P.S.: From the perspective of my adult self, that I would own a collander is an act of reckless optimism bordering on pretension. It arouses the same reaction in me that you would have if you saw a copy of the complete works of SGA in a sophomore’s dorm room: “Really? You think you’re going to use that? Really?!?”

  9. For me, growing up in Oregon with midwestern parents, a sifter was something like this and a strainer was this, but I don’t think we had anything called a “sieve” in the kitchen.

    Not that I have anything against “absurd Britishisms”; I now say that the harmonic series is the the sum of “one on n” from hanging out with too many Australians…

  10. I wouldn’t call that applied mathematics. Rather entertainment or divulgative.

    @pete: if you can’t cook decent pasta no wonder your girlfriend dumped you. And you can’t get it right without a colander :-).

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