Wednesday, April 28, 2004

COMMON USAGE. Not long after writing a piece on the rivalry between the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, I received a message from inside Wingo Square. My informant complained I hadn't noted that the title of the redesigned Boston Globe Magazine's front-of-the-book section - "Boston Uncommon" - was already being used by Herald sports columnist Howard Bryant.

Fair enough. But it turns out that "Boston Uncommon" is about as original as "it was a dark and stormy night." Click here and you'll see what I mean. "Boston Uncommon" has been used to describe wedding and honeymoon packages, attractions for students, and crab cakes. It's the name of a vocal group, the title of an article about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and the headline on a story about a Palm Beach County gardener who moved there from Boston.

The Christian Science Monitor used it for a things-to-do piece., a Florida website, used it for an 82-year-old guy who was planning to run the Boston Marathon. The Cincinnati Post used it to describe a former Ohio State football star named David Boston.

Titles are often used to evoke a sense of the familiar rather than dazzle with originality. They also can't be copyrighted, although they can be trademarked for certain limited purposes. (Very limited, as Roger Ailes learned when he went after Al Franken.)

Does any of this matter? No. Just thought I'd share.

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