Oddest Title of the Year.

Alison Flood reports on a vital cultural indicator:

A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path has beaten Introducing the Medieval Ass to win the Diagram prize for oddest book title of the year.

Both books are academic studies, with the winning title by University of Alberta anthropologist Gregory Forth. It sees Forth look at how the Nage, an indigenous people primarily living on the islands of Flores and Timor, understand metaphor, and use their knowledge of animals to shape specific expressions. The title itself is an idiom for someone who begins a task but is then distracted by other matters. […]

“I thought it would be a closer race, but A Dog Pissing is practically a perfect Venn diagram of an ideal winner,” said Tom Tivnan, the prize coordinator and managing editor of the Bookseller. He said it combined “the three most fecund Diagram prize territories: university presses (a tradition dating back to the first champ, 1978’s University of Tokyo-published Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice); animals (like 2012’s Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop or 2003’s The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories); and bodily functions (such as 2013’s How to Poo on a Date and 2011’s Cooking with Poo).”

Thanks, Trevor!


  1. Very apt! But if you’ve ever walked a dog, pissing on the edge of the path is about the most minor distraction you’ll encounter.

  2. For a different tone, how about Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. Published 2019 (in translation).
    Conversation I had last year:
    “So, what are you reading?”
    “I’m halfway through Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. How about you?”

  3. “Somewhere in the distance a dog—” oh, never mind.

  4. There was controversy when “The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais” won, as both title and content were computer-generated.

  5. Are lesbian horse stories stories about horses by lesbians, stories about horses for lesbians, or stories about lesbian horses?

  6. You’ll have to google and find out!

  7. Make sure you clear your search history though- you don’t want people getting the right idea

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    I would hope that The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories would be inclusive. There is surely room for all these subgenres; and indeed the clue is right there in the title.

  9. Trond Engen says

    The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories

    1001 Mares.

  10. The Lesbian Horse connection might look funny from a distance; but Emma Hunsinger’s How to Draw a Horse was the most beautifully lyrical thing I have read in the past year.

    I love strange book titles, but there are too many of them (e.g. here). In order to whittle down the list of titles to admire, I divide them, first, into titles which seem ordinary to a specialist or insider, funny to others only because of the unfamiliar association: The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, or The Trombone in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, or The Flat-Footed Flies of Europe. In another class are purposefully funny names: How to Shit in the Woods, or Feathers and Fur on the Turnpike (and later, Flattened Fauna), or Fish Who Answer the Telephone: And Other Studies in Experimental Biology, or How to Avoid Huge Ships. The last class, the smallest and my favorite, is of those titles where only the author is unaware of the strangeness: The Romance of Leprosy is matchless, and I admire How to Good-bye Depression: If you constrict anus 100 times everyday. Malarkey? or Effective way?

  11. «Вселенная в опасности и в любое мгновение может погибнуть. Спасти её могу только я!» – руководствуясь этим убеждением, Мэлор Егоров, пациент психиатрической клиники, решается на побег. Мэлор уверен: в далекой деревне Внуково, в доме родителей, спрятан Пульт управления Вселенной. С помощью Пульта Мэлор рассчитывает восстановить энергетический баланс Вселенной и дать новый шанс Человечеству преодолеть гравитацию и покорить Космос. Вот только родительский дом хранит гораздо больше тайн чем ожидает Мэлор.

  12. I thought it was a translation. The photoshopped covers looks great anyway. I recognize the one in the middle from my childhood. “Chemistry for the curious,” an East German collection of relatively simple experiments in non-organic chemistry.

    Actually, the one on the right is real. The Friendly Fungi was the original title but Duddington was indeed an expert on “predaceous” fungi: “Duddingtonia flagrans traps nematodes on three-dimensional adhesive nets, then kills and digests them.”

  13. Boris Akunin’s “Pelagia & the Red Rooster” has a chapter named “Shmulik – Ruler of the Universe”.

    Full of erudition, he delved into the labyrinths of the Talmud. Now he no longer crammed blindly, but kept the blade of his mind sharpened, because there, in the intricate nooks and crannies of the Zohar, were indescribable treasures. It is known that a highly educated person, endowed with the gift of penetrating into the secret meaning of letters, can find in that book ciphers to great secrets and miracles, he can even become the ruler of the Universe. In the combinations of letters that are used in the Names of the Lord, in the sacred number 26, the digital equivalent of the four-letter “yod-hey-vav-hey”, there is a key to the secret knowledge that haunts many generations of Talmudists. Other yeshibotniks, like parrots, tried to repeat one or the other prayer 26 times; some of them hit their heads 26 times against the Wailing Wall, or 26 times bypassed Mount Meron, where the great Shimon bar Yohai, the author of the Zohar, is buried, but Shmulik felt: this is nonsense, stupid repetition will not achieve anything. His heart gave a hint: everything is immeasurably more complicated and at the same time much simpler. One day at sunset (he firmly knew that this would happen at sunset) the truth itself would reveal itself to him in all its beautiful simplicity, and he would be able to pronounce the unpronounceable, hear the inaudible, and see the invisible. God will appoint him as His world-builder, because in His all-embracing wisdom he will know: Shmulik Mamzer can be trusted, he will not do bad things to the human world.

    You can be sure that, having become the ruler of the Universe, Shmulik would arrange everything in it in the most excellent way…

    By the way, Shmulik with his own mind reached the great discovery and, God forbid, did not share his guess with Rav Shefarevich: the Messiah will not appear from heaven; The Messiah will be the one who deciphers the name of the Lord and is not afraid to say it out loud, who takes responsibility for everything that happens on Earth, and then the morning will come when the sun will no longer look out from behind the mountains, because there is no need…. for man has fulfilled the commission, and the dust will return to dust, and the spirit will return to the Lord. And all thanks to Shmuel from Zhitomir, who was once called Mamzer.

  14. But if you’ve ever walked a dog, pissing on the edge of the path is about the most minor distraction you’ll encounter.

    It might be, however, a rather significant distraction if you are instead the dog.

    — I recall hearing of a Super Lesbian Horse RPG Original Soundtrack at one point. Though the weird titles competition among albums is surely steeper than among books — even if we don’t go full vaporwave / witch house / flashcore, 2013 alone has also offerings such Circles Super Bon Bon Sleepless How Many Cans? True Dreams of Wichita Monster Man Mr. Bitterness Maybe I’ll Come Down St. Louise Is Listening I Miss the Girl Unmarked Helicopters the Idiot Kings So Far I Have Not Found the Science by one Mike Doughty. My all-time favorite might be the 2006 live EP I’m a Big Sister, And I’m a Girl, And I’m a Princess, And This Is My Horse by techno group Underworld; and considering the Diagram prize desiderata, e.g. the 2002 album Karhun epäillään paskantaneen golfkentälle (‘A Bear Is Suspected to Have Shat on the Golf Course’) by Finnish experimentalist Verde might also rank favorably if they ever expanded to this area.

  15. yeshibotniks

    A great word!

    The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories

    I took a look on Amazon. Fave review, by one Googly Elmo: “Not as arousing as the title would have you believe. Plus, it is no larger than a regular sized book of lesbian horse stories.”

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