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Some book titles and movie titles start with the word of; for example:

Of Time and the River,
Of Mice and Men,
Of Corset's mine,
Of Time and the City

What is the purpose of using of in that way?
What difference is there between using or omitting the word of in such cases?

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  • 'of' as in 'about' as in 'this book is about' thesaurus.com/browse/of – user180089 Jul 13 '16 at 22:04
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    'Concerning Mice and Men' isn't quite as catchy, don't you think? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 13 '16 at 22:11
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    @EdwinAshworth Then again “On Hobbits” doesn't have quite the same Tolkienite ring to it as “Concerning Hobbits” either. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 13 '16 at 22:22
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Of means ABOUT. Originally, I think the OF is taken from the Latin "de". It appears in many legal phrases such as DE FACTO.

Very often, even today, in Spanish, legal texts will have sections of a contract that begin with the word DE (OF). That is not translated into English. One just says: The Prices, and not: Of the Prices, as the Spanish does.

I suspect (but cannot prove) that in Medieval or earlier Latin and probably in Greek originally, treaties were written on subjects (say, philosophy) and often the idea or subject was a list of items on the same topic. Here is a very good example, St. Thomas Aquina's Summa Theologica. http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/

Look at the titles: See how Treatise ON repeats over and over?

TREATISE ON THE CREATION

TREATISE ON THE ANGELS

TREATISE ON THE WORK OF THE SIX DAYS

TREATISE ON MAN

TREATISE ON THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT

That ON [meaning ABOUT] would be DE probably in Latin. And there is always lurking in the background the idea of some type of text: [A Novel] of Mice and Men [A Story] of Time and the City. [A Tale] of Corset's Mine

Eventually, the type of text was simply dropped and people just started using OF as the first word.

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