BMJ. 2005 Dec 24;331(7531):1540-2.
>From Shakespeare to Star Trek and beyond: a Medline search for literary and other allusions in biomedical titles.
OBJECTIVES: To document biomedical paper titles containing literary and
other allusions. DESIGN: Retrospective survey. SETTING: Medline (1951 to
mid-2005) through Dialog Datastar. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Allusions to
Shakespeare, Hans Christian Andersen, proverbs, the Bible, Lewis Carroll, and
movie titles, corrected and scaled for five year periods 1950-4 to 2000-4.
RESULTS: More than 1400 Shakespearean allusions exist, a third of them to
"What's in a name" and another third to Hamlet-mostly to "To be or not to be."
The trend of increasing use of allusive titles, identified from Shakespeare and
Andersen, is paralleled by allusions to Carroll and proverbs; the trend of
biblical allusions is also upward but is more erratic. Trends for newer
allusions are also upwards, including the previously surveyed "paradigm shift."
Allusive titles are likely to be to editorial or comment rather than to original
research. CONCLUSIONS: The similar trends are presumably a mark of a particular
learnt author behaviour. Newer allusions may be becoming more popular than older
ones. Allusive titles can be unhelpful to reviewers and researchers, and many
are now cliches. Whether they attract readers or citations is unknown, but
better ways of gaining attention exist.