I would be very grateful for some help with this title for a CD.

"Andrew & Elsa Peterson – the genuine pioneer story"

The CD issuers from a historical society want to put the above as title. I'm wondering if there should be a genitive construction? like: ...the genuine pioneers' story. Is there another better title considering that they have to add "The real people behind the fictional characters from the famous Emigrant novels" somewhere at the bottom of the CD? to explain why this story is the genuine one. Do you think they should add Swedish or Scandinavian, since Andrew & Elsa were from Sweden? should they write "the people that the fictional characters were based on" ...etc instead?

  • Is this a documentary CD or something like that, rather than a music CD with songs on it? Is the CD actually a story? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 10 '15 at 10:23

Genuine sounds a bit odd here. When used to describe people, genuine normally relates to their personality, rather than their existence; so the implied opposite to genuine is not fictitious/literary, but rather dishonest/deceitful. “The genuine pioneer’s story” makes it sound like it’s the story of a pioneer with a very pure and honest disposition (rather than the story of a pioneer who was a liar and a cheat).

When applied to something like a story, genuine normally pertains to the objective and verified veracity of something; its opposite is something along the lines of counterfeit. “The genuine pioneer story” makes it sound like this is a verified, non-counterfeit story about pioneers, the implication being that there is another, unverified and false story somewhere as well.

More appropriate adjectives would be real or true. While both of these are also antonyms of fake, false, they are commonly used to separate real-world characters and stories from fictitious ones (and they certainly don’t say anything about a person’s personality or disposition). For example, when a movie is said to be “based on a true story”, that doesn’t imply that there is a false story going around also, just that the movie is based on events that took place in the real, non-fictitious world (even the real world uses real here). Indeed, this Visit Östergötland page uses true in the title for a launching event of the Andrew & Elsa CD in July.

In addition, it sounds a bit unnecessary and not very ‘title idiomatic’ to have story as part of the title in English. This is quite language-dependent (and perhaps also purely subjective), but while in Swedish, the title Andrew och Elsa – den äkta pionjärhistorien sounds quite natural as the title of a “musical audio book” (as they call it), I think it would follow the general tendencies of titles in English better to simply call the English version Andrew and Elsa: the true pioneers.

The explanatory subtitle could then include the story bit: “The story of the people who inspired the characters in the renowned Emigrant novels” or something like that.

  • Thank you so much! Now we can start rethinking the title – and I hope you won't mind if we use your title? /Kind regards, Blom – Blom Jun 10 '15 at 11:04
  • Not at all. But do wait and see if someone else chimes in with differing viewpoints before settling on anything final. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 10 '15 at 11:06
  • If something is genuine, it means it is not a copy, or an imitation. And "true" can mean "genuine" as in this is a true/genuine/real Rolex watch. So... "True pioneers" might still be interpreted to mean pioneers who are the real McCoy, as in these two are not make-believe pioneers. "The true story of bla... and bla..." would help to disambiguate the title. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '15 at 11:09
  • @Mari-LouA Yes, it might; but when describing people, genuine most commonly means ‘heartfelt, undeceiving, honest’, while true at least doesn't mean that as often. The meaning ‘real-life (as opposed to literary, fictitious)’ is also well-established in the phrase “Based on a true story”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 10 '15 at 11:12
  • How can you recommend "real" and "true" if you want to avoid opposites of "fake" and "false"? Those worsen the problem by being perfect antonyms. – Matthew Read Jun 10 '15 at 15:41

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