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What 10 More Books Were Almost Called

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More goes in to settling on a title for a book than you might think. Even if you haven't read them, the names of these 10 classic tales are instantly recognizable. If the authors hadn't changed their minds, however, these novels may not have received the attention they deserved. (And check out 10 more here.)

1. Valley of the Dolls

Would you have read a book called They Don't Build Statues to Businessmen? Me neither. It's a good thing Jacqueline Susann chose a snappier title.

2. Lolita

Thanks to Nabokov, the word “lolita” has entered common vernacular—but that wouldn’t have happened had he named his book Kingdom By the Sea, as he wrote to a friend. The name was an homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee,” because in the novel, Humbert nicknamed his first teenage love after Poe's heroine. The poem goes, “It was many and many a year ago / In a kingdom by the sea, / That a maiden there lived whom you may know / By the name of Annabel Lee.”

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

J.K. Rowling says that her working title for the fourth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament, leaked before the book was ready. She also kicked around Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament, but decided on Goblet of Fire because, she said, “it’s got that kind of ‘cup of destiny’ feel about it.”

4. Goodnight Moon

It’s a subtle difference, but Margaret Wise’s classic board book was originally called Goodnight Room. Goodnight Moon feels much more like a child getting ready to drift off into dreamland, doesn’t it?

5. James and the Giant Peach

Had Roald Dahl stuck with his original plan, the tome would have been titled James and the Giant Cherry instead. A peach is “prettier, bigger and squishier,” Dahl decided.

6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Believing that a caterpillar was more appealing than a worm, Eric Carle’s editor, Ann Benaduce, suggested that he make a slight change to the book. It worked out well—Carle didn’t have a clear ending in mind for A Week With Willie Worm, and switching allowed the story to arrive at the natural conclusion of his titular caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.

7. The Fountainhead

The first title of this novel by Ayn Rand was Second-Hand Lives, which explains her words on the dedication page of the manuscript: “To Frank O’Connor, who is less guilty of secondhandedness than anyone I have ever met.”

8. Lord of the Flies

William Golding’s disturbing dystopian tale about murderous children stranded on an island was first titled Strangers From Within. That may have had something to do with why it was rejected six times.

9. Of Mice and Men

Steinbeck’s original title, Something That Happened, was supposed to show that, for better or worse, sometimes things happen, and that’s just how life is.

10. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers got straight to the point with the working title of her debut novel, simply calling it The Mute. She changed it at the suggestion of Houghton Mifflin’s sales manager.



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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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