In most cases I would say that the family name should come first, as in "the Ringling Brothers circus" or "the Bronte sisters", but then there is the Dostoyevsky novel "The Brothers Karamazov".

Why does the family name come after the brothers in this case?

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    Hmmm. The Brothers Grimm are also a translation and also kept in their original order. Brat'ya Karamazovy and Brüder Grimm. – Sam Apr 18 '11 at 4:19
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    Likewise 'The Swiss Family Robinson' – z7sg Ѫ Apr 18 '11 at 11:46
  • @z7sg Come to think of it ... 'The Swiss Family Robinson' sounds very strange. This example could be affected by the using both 'Swiss' in addition to 'Robinson' to modify family. – gbutters Apr 18 '11 at 12:37
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    A point of interest: A common misconception is that 'The Swiss Family Robinson' is about a Swiss family called Robinson. This is not the case. They are a Swiss family undergoing a Robinson Crusoe like experience. Therefore, 'The Swiss Family' modifies 'Robinson'. – Karl Apr 21 '11 at 5:59

It is the same translation in German "Die Brüder K..." and now that you ask that it also seems strange because you would also normally say "Die K... Brüder". (So in this case I have a good feeling for the case although I am not a native speaker of English ;-)

I would answer the question that you get used to certain new uses that are not too far from the "normal" uses and it gives you a certain new feeling. In this case the epic dimension is being stressed and it feels natural by now (now "The K... brothers would feel awkward).

This is how a language develops and new uses of old words and concepts get established.

Hope that helps.


The two titles have different feeling and the original translator chose what he or she thought best. There isn't such thing as an exact answer to a question like this.

  • I think the original translator was trying to emphasize the "Russian"ness of the story by using the more exotic Russian word order. – James Anderson Jul 4 '11 at 10:54

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