An entitled piece on titles

I have a confession to make: NPR is driving me crazy.

Now, if you know me, that’s going to come as a surprise, because you probably also know I love NPR. Yes, I’m that guy: the one who listens to  Steve Inskeep, Rachel Martin and David Greene in the mornings on the way to work. I listen to reruns of “Car Talk” if I’m driving on weekends; I think “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” is brilliant; and my inner geek does a little dance every time I hear “Star Talk.”(OK, OK, it’s The Sprinkler. Don’t judge.)

Barack Obama dance dancing jimmy fallon michelle obama

But over the last year, I’ve gotten a bit irked with my favorite radio programs. Is it because of their in-depth coverage of important and interesting events? Nope. The World Cafe’s excellent music? Hell to the no! The news programs’ seemingly unending election coverage? Nah. (OK, maybe just a little.)

I’m getting annoyed because of what I perceive as an entitled error  — or rather, what I see as the frequent, incorrect use of the word, “entitled.”

The problem is that I expect the folks on NPR to believe that when you’re talking about a book, album, play or anything else with a title, there’s a very simple term you should use: titled.

Did you catch that? I’ll write it again, with a little bold and underline action for emphasis: titled.

Here’s an example: “Today on NPR, we’re going to talk a little bit about a blog post titled, “An entitled piece on titles.”

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Dude, relax. They mean the same thing.” If that’s you, I’d like to politely tell you that I think you’re wrong.

You see, way back when on my first newspaper copy desk, I was bullied taught that the word “titled” is the proper way to refer to the title of something. To wit: “A book titled ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy.” “A TV show titled ‘Sherlock’ on BBC America.”

The word “entitled,” it was beaten drilled into me, means “to have a rightful claim to something.” For instance, “The king is entitled to wear the crown”; “Kanye West thinks he’s entitled to interrupt anyone so that he can spew his opinions.”

The grammar sticklers among you, however, may recognize that this is actually wrong — and I’m not just talking about Kanye’s sense of entitlement.

It turns out that the slot editor who screamed at us every time the word “entitled” was used to describe a book or movie title suffered from his own case of entitlement. The word “entitled” has actually been used for centuries to describe the names of things. Don’t believe me? Look it up here, on Grammarist, or here on Merriam-Webster.

Surprised? Yeah, it was news to me, too — especially since I intended this post to be a rant about the incorrect use of a word. But then I learned something — and that’s always a good thing.

Still, I would really prefer it if the folks on NPR would stop using the word “entitled” to refer to the names of things that are published, and instead use the word “titled.”


Because right or wrong, I guess I’m feeling entitled.


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