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April 7, 2010 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Is Nineteen Eighty-Four 1984?

It's been years since I read Mr. Orwell's work. I was a freshman in high school, and it didn't really blow my mind, or anything... seeing as my anti-establishment-feminist-hypocrite teacher had us reading Fountainhead, Cat's Cradle, Antigone, etc. So, I was pretty numb to it, by then.

Anyhow, I handed in my rough draft for a report on the novel and she drew a big red X on it, wrote a note on the bottom, and directed me to the writing lab to revise it immediately.

I had referred to it as 1984, instead of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

This still bothers me. I'm not saying she's wrong, but if she's right, the whole damn internet is wrong.

Which is it?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled to Writing & Language (29 answers total)
 


Your teacher was right.

And the other books she had you reading were totally standard high school English class books, and not at all indicative of any agenda or hypocrisy on her part (she may well have been an anti-establishment-feminist-hypocrite, whatever that means, but the books she had you reading were not the result of that - they were the same thing most other high school freshmen were reading).
posted by The World Famous at 1:11 PM on April 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


The correct title is the spelled out version.
posted by Babblesort at 1:12 PM on April 7, 2010


According to Wikipedia, Nineteen Eighty-Four is correct (though the title is "sometimes unofficially abbreviated to 1984"). Amazon concurs.
posted by rebekah at 1:13 PM on April 7, 2010


There seem to be conflicting rules about when you should write out numbers and when you should use numerals. One such is here:

* Write out numbers that require no more than two words, remembering that a hyphenated number between twenty-one and ninety-nine counts as one word. Some writing manuals will suggest that whole numbers from zero through nine should be written as words, and numbers from ten on up should be written as numerals, especially when the word modifies a noun as in five students or two professors

I was taught to write out two digit numbers, so following that rule, if you wanted to write the number '19' '84', it would be 'nineteen eighty-four', but not if you wanted to write out "1,984".

So ... uh ... I guess you're both right! Or both wrong. Or some combination of the two.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:13 PM on April 7, 2010


I would have referred to it using the words in a paper, at least the first time. But, interestingly, here are GIS to a bunch of book covers. It seems split half and half between Nineteen Eighty-Four and 1984.

Personally, I think refusing to even read the paper until you corrected something that boils down to a matter of style, is completely asinine. So, if you want to know whether your indignation with that is shared, it is. But now it is time to let it go.

On a different note, thank you for including the hyphen in Eighty-Four. It drives me crazy when people don't do that. Tiny pet peeve of mine, but not something that, for example, I would refuse to read a paper over.
posted by bunnycup at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2010


Firstly, it's far easier to placate your professor than correct them.

Secondly, let's quote wikipedia:
"Nineteen Eighty-Four (sometimes unofficially abbreviated to 1984)"
They've done you a favor by marking you wrong in draft rather than grading you down for not actually having studied the material from which your report is based.
posted by pwnguin at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2010


Library of Congress record in case you don't believe the internet (wikipedia.)

There seem to be conflicting rules about when you should write out numbers and when you should use numerals.
This is a book title, not just a number.
posted by sanko at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is a book title, not just a number.

yeah, for numbers, "write it out if it's under 10, use the numeral otherwise" is a pretty solid rule.

But the title of a book is whatever the author says it is.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:23 PM on April 7, 2010


There seem to be conflicting rules about when you should write out numbers and when you should use numerals.

I'm at least as much of a fan of prescriptive language rules as most people, but that's ridiculous. There's no question that the general rule for a year is to write it in numerals (e.g. it's 2010, not Two Thousand Ten or Twenty Ten). But if Orwell called it "Nineteen Eighty-Four," then that's what it is.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:35 PM on April 7, 2010


While the spelled out version is correct, it is interesting that of all the versions Amazon has for sale, most have cover art that indicates the title is "1984".
posted by mmascolino at 1:36 PM on April 7, 2010


Cover art is not canonical. The place to go in an edition of the book to see the canonical title is the title page. Art is an interpretation by a graphic designer or artist, nothing more.
posted by mikel at 1:39 PM on April 7, 2010


I think the answer is "whatever the bookcover said in the edition that was used by your class". Also, in any test/syllabus/notes from the teacher, which way did she write it? How about on the blackboard - did she write it out?

I always thought it was "1984" and looking at the bookcovers that are widely available, I don't see any problem referring to it like that.
posted by CathyG at 1:40 PM on April 7, 2010


[few comments removed - please keep answers on topic and keep hyperbole to a minimum, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:14 PM on April 7, 2010


Nineteen Eighty-Four is the "official" title, but 1984 is a perfectly acceptable abbreviation. Probably you should've used the full title at least once (since it'd be weird to write a paper about anything that only referred to its subject with abbreviations), but her reaction was way overblown.
posted by equalpants at 2:16 PM on April 7, 2010


The correct version is spelled-out. Nineteen Eighty-Four.

most have cover art that indicates the title is "1984"

Not the original.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:16 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh. It has both! As does this one.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2010


1984 is an album by Van Halen.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a book by Orwell.

Which one was the subject of your paper?
posted by The World Famous at 2:24 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is overly picky. Tolstoy for example never wrote a book named "War and Peace". But, I'm sure your teacher would freak out if you referred to it as "Война и мир".
posted by JJ86 at 2:36 PM on April 7, 2010


It is overly picky. Tolstoy for example never wrote a book named "War and Peace". But, I'm sure your teacher would freak out if you referred to it as "Война и мир".

The English published name of Tolstoy's novel is War and Peace.

I think that it's generally a safe assumption that one's English Lit teacher is going to be picky about the English of the literature. Similarly, writing a book report on Catch-Twenty-Two or The 2 Towers would also likely garner a big red X.
posted by desuetude at 3:33 PM on April 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


The correction is technically valid. However, that doesn't mean that it couldn't have been presented in an annoying context.

I don't see anything wrong with the reading list. Sounds like a good class, actually, and teaching those books is in no way inconsistent with being anti-establishment or feminist that I can think of.

But sending a kid to the "writing lab" to fix this particular error smacks of someone who had an axe to grind. Then again, maybe it was an axe that needed grinding.
posted by bingo at 3:41 PM on April 7, 2010


This is a famous bibliographical 'point', as any rare-book dealer will tell you. The title appears as 1984. A Novel in the proofs of the first edition, but as Nineteen Eighty-Four on the book as published. So it looks as though Orwell changed his mind about the title at proof stage.

This online exhibition of Orwell first editions includes the uncorrected proofs (29a), the first English edition (29b) and the first American edition (29c). The American publishers would have preferred to call it 1984 but eventually settled for the title as Orwell wanted it. However, in some later American editions, including the Signet paperback, the title reverts to 1984.

The last proof copy to appear at auction sold for $10,000 in 2002, which, with hindsight, looks like a bargain considering that a copy of Down and Out in Paris and London sold for £86,000 just the other day.
posted by verstegan at 4:26 PM on April 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have no source to back it up, but I recall that Orwell himself insisted the title be spelled out, rather than written as numerals. I typically respect the artist's wishes in matters like this. Your teacher was probably being overly pedantic and maybe a bit of an ass, but had a point.
posted by kuppajava at 6:02 PM on April 7, 2010


The title is what it is. Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four and not 1984, just like Bolano wrote 2666 and not Two Thousand Six Hundred and Sixty-Six.
posted by fso at 6:54 PM on April 7, 2010


You teacher was being ridiculous, but as others have pointed out, Nineteen Eighty-Four IS the correct title.

The cover is NOT the place to look for the "official" title. It's the title page.

However, I'm a cataloger... I *have* to be picky about that kind of thing. So, if you just wanted the so-called right answer, your teacher was right. If you want to know if she was being irritatingly obstinate, yes, she was. :-)
posted by INTPLibrarian at 6:01 AM on April 8, 2010


Well, in counterpoint to INTPLibrarian and others who say that the title page represents the "official" book title:

I have this version of the book (Signet Classic), and I was curious so I ran down to my bookshelf to take a gander at it. The title page branches two pages, in a very large serif fond has "19" on the left page (with 'A Novel by' underneath it), and "84" on the right page (with 'George Orwell' underneath it). That is, in the 1984 signet classic, the "official" title (using your rule of referring to the title page) is "1984". Can't find an image online, but am happy to scan if anyone wants to see.

My version also has an afterword by Erich Fromm, who refers to the title as "1984" (italicized). Not canonical, I agree, but interesting to note.
posted by bunnycup at 9:00 AM on April 8, 2010


So it looks as though Orwell changed his mind about the title at proof stage

He changed his mind a few times. It was originally The Last Man in Europe (blech!)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:19 PM on April 8, 2010


she may well have been an anti-establishment-feminist-hypocrite, whatever that means,

Basically, she would give us lectures on the ails of our violent patriarchal society, which I will agree were not without warrant, but when she was only 4 years from retirement, her husband (a brutish guy with no understanding of even the basic tenants of societal norms) told her he was leaving her for a younger woman and moving to Florida, she resigned her position and moved into an apartment near him and took a part time position at a library to keep her hopes alive. Last I knew, they were still divorced, she was still a part time librarian and being charged with forging a prescription (for what, I don't know).

I understand there are most likely other variables (her kids had long since moved out, I thought) but I always think of her whenever someone mentions Ayn Rand. She constantly referred to her as some sort of saintly figure, and I read We the Living thinking I would get a better understanding of this... I don't know if a tedious part time job and pining over an ex-husband in some coastal Florida town compares in any way to dying of a gunshot wound in the Russian snow whilst trying to escape the Iron Curtain, but I guess I'm an asshole for thinking such.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:57 PM on April 13, 2010


Oh man. I totally missed that you read the book and wrote the essay ages ago. For some reason when I read "anti-establishment-feminist-hypocrite" I think English professor. Personal failing, I guess. Somehow I thought you read it in high school tried to skip on revisiting the material when it popped up in college. Whoops.

Still, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
posted by pwnguin at 8:23 PM on April 13, 2010


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