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It's a bit of a niche question, but I've always wondered how the title of Alfred Bester's 1956 novel is at all grammatically correct. I feel like it teeters on being grammatically sufficient, but isn't quite there yet.

Although, clearly, it seems to be considered grammatically correct (it's a fully published novel). Gleaning from prior knowledge, I think its "correctness" has to do with a removal (or insertion) of a simple verb, so to speak. So, here:

"The Stars Are My Destination"; "The Stars Be My Destination".

Or, interestingly, now that I think about it:

"The Stars Betray My Destination"; "The Stars Forestall My Destination".

Inserting a verb between 'Stars' and 'My' yields the correct sentence I would expect to read. Realistically, even a comma would suffice. And this rule can be applied to other sentences of the same structure:

"My Corner Their Terrain," "The World Her Home," "Thou Cradle Myne Inheritance," etc.

Would this be considered a case of acceptable omission, or parallelism? Any help in understanding this definitively would be greatly appreciated.

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    First, note that book titles need not be (and usually aren't) complete sentences. Second, note that titles of any sort, like headlines, poems, and advertising slogans, do not follow the same grammatical rules as printed sentences. Third, read tchrist's response, which explains where the title came from. Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 2:46
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    "clearly, it seems to be considered grammatically correct (it's a fully published novel)." - Publishing doesn't guarantee correctness.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 13:32
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    Is Too Late the Phalarope grammatical? And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees? Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 14:35
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    There's also 'The World My Oyster ... thank you Pan Am!' by Zan (Owen) Ward. Though 'The my World Oyster' is a string one would find it hard to justify 'grammatically', grammar doesn't apply too well to sub-independent clause strings. And of course 'I saw a coded message on the ticket: it read "The my World Oyster" ' means that anything can be made to go. Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 15:29
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    @Lambie - you mean, the author should have done that in the title of the book? Because I think it is clear (by omission) that the OP didn't know of the poem in the book.
    – davidbak
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 19:13

1 Answer 1

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It makes complete sense. You're under-citing. Here's the entire verse from The Stars My Destination:

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place,
The stars my destination.

Just like in "Dogs are my friends, cats my enemies" and "I went to Harvard, my brother to Yale", there is nothing ungrammatical about leaving out a later duplicate verb. Moreover, it is more elegant this way.

But anyway, here clearly the copula is omitted metri causa. It would not scan otherwise.

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    Worth reading - and several of Bester's other novels are totally top-tier science fiction as well.
    – davidbak
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 19:11
  • Thank you for the answer, tchrist. I understand the sentence in context of the entire verse now, but I suppose I was more concerned about the title itself, assuming having not read the verse at all.
    – quincy
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 3:42
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    @quincy I think the issue is that titles and sentences aren’t held to the same standards. In fact, it’s uncommon for a title to be a sentence! I think that a reader seeing this title, unfamiliar with the verse, will guess that it’s a fragment, chosen to sound poetic, probably of significance to/explained in the book, and reflecting something about the story (e.g. stars + destination = space travel). Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 4:36
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    The verse is based on an "identification verse" that people used to write in books that they owned. Compare with: "Nathaniel Ager is my name And England is my nation Seaburgh is my dwelling place and Christ is my salvation" from a diary in "A Warning To The Curious" by M. R. James
    – fpeelo
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 13:12
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    @quincy When a title is an excerpt of some other work, it's often difficult to understand it without knowing that context. Consider Asimov's "The Gods Themselves" or Star Trek's "Whom Gods Destroy". These are meaningless fragments that only make sense if you know the full sentences that they refer to (google them if you want to know).
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 16:01

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