When you’re referring to what something is named, is it safe to use either entitled or titled ahead of the name? Some apparently no longer think so.
It’s interesting to me how words that mean one thing at one point come to mean something very different over time. The pair entitled or titled are victims of this phenomenon.
This is an example I’m sure I’ve given before, but I’ll go for it again. The word terrific used to have a meaning that meant “tremendous” or “overwhelming.”
Consider the Christmas song, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” with this lyric:
From Atlantic to Pacific
Gee the traffic is terrific!
And then there was what is purported to be the last words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he began suffering the cerebral hemorrhage that would end his life: “I have a terrific headache.”
In neither case did terrific mean “great” or “fantastic,” which is what it’s generally understood to mean now.
Entitled or titled?
There was a time when someone would introduce the name of a book or film in this way: “The book is entitled, ‘Lightning.’”
But that usage is becoming less common as people shorten entitled to titled.
These days, entitled has a far less pleasant connotation, referring to one’s belief that they deserve some sort of special privilege or advantage over someone else because of their socio-economic status, background, gender, race or age.
But which of these sentences are correct?
The book is entitled, ‘Lightning.’”
The book is titled, ‘Lightning.’”
Brace yourself: despite the wishes of those who might like to see entitled only refer to the arrogant sense of undue self-worth, it still carries the original meaning as well.
So both of the above sentences are, technically correct.
So which is better?
Despite the fact that both are correctly used in those examples, I’m going to go out on a limb and give you my opinion: avoid entitled when introducing something by name.
Because entitled is now so strongly associated with attitudes of entitlement, you run the risk of distracting your readers. You also run the risk of coming off sounding pretentious.
Entitled isn’t wrong. But titled is simpler, clearer and more to the point.
That’s a good reason to choose the shorter version instead.