So I’m reading the PW Children’s Bookshelf and there’s Matthew Broaderick, still looking like Ferris Bueller, next to Kate DiCamillo in a publicity photo for the release of the movie The Tale of Despereaux. I really have no desire to see the movie, and would have ignored the press release generally, were it not for the following words jumping out and slapping me in the face, demanding satisfaction.
…actor Matthew Broderick, who voiced the role of the titular mouse…
Is this the only way to describe mice in children’s books? Seriously, this phrase is so overused it practically ceases to have any meaning, it’s so lifeless even it’s bleached bones have turned to dust. A quick Google search of the phrase shows that it has been used to describe the aforementioned Despereaux, Angelina Ballerina, Charlie’s friend Algernon, Cookie Mouse, the Tutter character from an episode of Bear in the Big Blue House, Stuart Little, Ricky Ricotta, and any number of other media featuring a mouse as a main character.
I get that the word titular indicates a reference to the title character, but I suspect it’s a phrase that sticks with people because it echos the phrase tit mouse (which is actually a bird), and that it’s entirely possible that people don’t know what the word means and think it’s a synonym for “cute and diminutive.” It could also be one of those words that persists because of the puerile nature of those who first encounter it during puberty. Consider a class of junior high school boys who, upon hearing the word and believing it has something to do with mammary glands, collect and propagate its misuse. Dude, the latest issue of Maxim is totally titular!
Language. Some words are like burrs in socks, designed to be carried by unwitting hosts to a new destination, inspiring the invention of Velcro.
But it’s done, it’s over, it’s beyond its expiration date. I officially declare the phrase “titular mouse” to be no longer of any value and that it shall be stricken from use for at least a decade. You call yourself a writer, a journalist, a wordsmith? Surely you can find another way to describe the title character of a book, especially if it is a mouse.