Thu
Jan 31 2013 2:00pm

Grammar Fight! Star Trek Into Darkness Title Sparks Tussle on Wikipedia

Wikipedia Editors and Star Trek Fans are Fighting Over Grammar in Star Trek Into Darkness and it is Fascinating

As brilliantly highlighted in a recent installment of the web comic XKCD; the title of the latest Star Trek film has precipitated a grammar smack down on a Wikipedia talkpage between whether the “into” in the title Star Trek Into Darkness should be capitalized. Most of this “controversy” probably would have never occurred if a colon had been present in the title. So what’s the big deal?

Grammar snobbery is something we enjoy at Tor.com (we recommend the Merriam Webster Ask the Editor Series for a more fun, relaxed take on grammar) especially when grammar outrage gets to silly levels.

It’s not like we love the title to the forthcoming Star Trek movie, but a title is not a sentence, and since the controversy involves a piece of art, a form of expression and not a form of accuracy, it seems like Star Trek Into Darkness can do whatever it wants in its title.

Further, the original 1960’s Star Trek has been causing old school grammar extremists to bang their heads against the wall for decades now. Why? Well, the end of the famous opening narration, “To boldly go where no man has gone before,” contains a split infinitive; meaning the word “boldly” rudely drops in between the infinitive “to go.” While a lot of grammarians may have opposed this, the impact of Star Trek’s motto clearly outweighed any outcry.

We prefer to capitalize the “into” when using the title, as there’s an additional visual element to consider aside from grammar. It’s clearly the intent of the filmmakers that the title be read as a statement, that you should expect a “trek into darkness,” so capitalizing the “into” keeps that statement from being interrupted.

However you feel about the matter, it’s worth perusing the Wikipedia discussion over it, if only to admire the sheer obsolescence of it. What’s being discussed matters so very little, and yet we all have such strong, clear opinions about it.

As Spock said in Star Trek Into Darkness, “Fascinating.”


Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.

Chris Lough is the production manager for Tor.com and is not a copy editor, even though he plays one on TV.

23 comments
T C
1. Freelancer
This and a little antimatter and we could breach the warp threshold.
JS Bangs
2. jaspax
I cannot restrain myself: the rule against split infinitives does not exist. No responsible grammarian has ever ruled against the form, and nearly all modern style guides accept the so-called "split infinitives". The idea lives on as a kind of zombie rule, long since dead and buried by the living, but constantly resurrected by voodoo pedants who believe that their adherence to this ridiculous non-rule somehow makes them superior to the hoi polloi.

It's possible that I have strong feelings about this issue.

Anyway: XKCD is funny as usual. And there is no problem with "to boldly go".
PJ23489728
3. PJ23489728
I'm always eager to increase my vocabulary, so I read the word "obsolence" and went to dictionary.com and mirriam webster to find the meaning. Neither site has any record of "obsolence". Are you trolling us linguaphiles?
Thomas Thatcher
4. StrongDreams
I used to be a big bug at Wikipedia. Three guesses why I left...
Chris Lough
5. TorChris
@3. PJ23489728. Nah, that's us drastically misspelling an actual word!
PJ23489728
6. chaosprime
The situation illustrates one of the main things that's wrong with Wikipedia: being overwhelmed with neurotic rule-followers. It's really tedious. If I wanted to hang out with a bunch of people who value adherence to some set of imaginary rules over accomplishing anything of value, I'd go to a church.

The split infinitive prohibition is especially hilarious for having been invented by some blowhard who thought that since you cannot split an infinitive in Latin, you should not in English.

@jaspax? When you say "the hoi polloi", you're saying "the the people". Hope this helps.
JS Bangs
7. jaspax
@chaosprime, I know exactly what hoi polloi means in Greek, having studied it for many years. That doesn't change the fact that the phrase is normally treated as arthrous in English, where the word hoi has no meaning. Hope this helps.
Kit Case
8. wiredog
So is that (Star Trek) (Into Darkness) or
(Star) (Trek Into Darkness)?
Nick Rogers
9. BookGoblin
@wiredog I think it's both.

{Star (Trek} Into Darkness)

Bridging {Star Trek} and (Trek Into Darkness) with the union of the word in common. But that's just how I read the arguments. I honestly have NO opinion on the matter directly.
Francisco Guimaraes
10. franksands
Captalizing a word in the title does not even come close to how they translate it. In Brazil it's being called "Star Trek Além Da Escuridão" which means "Star Trek Beyond the Darkness", which in my opinion is the opposite meaning of the original title. Yay for Brazilian translations.
Rowan Blaze
11. rowanblaze
The most amusing thing about the argument is that it is one of style, not grammar. Since style guides and experts disagree, there is no way the hoi polloi ever will.
PJ23489728
12. ncane
I'm most pleased by the Contact shoutout...
PJ23489728
13. Eugene R.
I cannot read the title without mentally inserting a colon after the franchise name (Star Trek: Into Darkness), so I guess I can live with a capitalized "Into".
PJ23489728
14. Not Luke
It’s clearly the intent of the filmmakers that the title be read as a statement, that you should expect a “trek into darkness,” so capitalizing the “into” keeps that statement from being interrupted.

1. It being "clearly the intent" is your speculation. I actually believe that creators wanted to make the reading ambiguous.
2. If it was the intent, though, it would actually be a reason not to capitalize "into". You basically argue its a common place/direction denoting preposition stuck inside a phrase. So it should be left lowercase, just like any "of", "to" or "from" would be in its place.

I honestly don't have an opinion on the "proper" spelling of the title (other than, you know, to respect the creators' version, regardless of its adherence to a chosen set of rules). It just struck me as odd that the way you rationalize your choice seems as the reason to rather do exactly opposite...
Steven Lyle Jordan
15. Futurisk
Are you sure you meant "obsolescence," or "adolescence?"
Chin Bawambi
16. bawambi
Imagine on top of all the normal infighting at Wiki trying to write futbol information and you get spats which make our Congress seem adult by comparison.
Turlough Delaney
19. Goobdroog
As regards the split infinitive issue, you're right to say it doesn't matter any more - only the worst kind of pedants still complain about them ("to boldly complain about grammar when no one else gives a crap")

Anyway, "to boldly go where no man has gone before" just sounds much better than "to go boldly where..." It's a beautifully poetic sentence which really sums up the appeal of Star Trek. It's no surprise it's embedded itself in the public consciousness.

And shouldn't poets and poetry not be subject to the same grammatical and semantic rules as everyone else? Otherwise e.e. cummings would've had no career to speak of.
PJ23489728
20. SueQ
Just put the movie up on a screen somewhere so I can see it already. As I have often said: Grammar in my Mom's Mom. I've been getting a chuckle out of the fact that J.J. Abrams is doing the next Star Wars movie as well. We finally found a way to get along.
Scotty, Bones, and Han Solo forever!
PJ23489728
21. Danika
@Goobdrog, 19.:
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Contact_(film)#Ellie_Arroway
"Some celestial event. No - no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should have sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful... I had no idea."
PJ23489728
22. Matthew Diamond
.. And so the grammar wars spread to Tor's website. From there the contagion spread to all levels of society. It was only a matter of time before the first grammar fights broke out on the floor of the House of Representatives, spreading from there into the rest of government. Obama's notorious 2014 State of the Union speech was the first recorded instance of a sitting president attempting to use the bully pulpit to win a grammar fight, but hardly the last...

In 2018, in an attempt to solve the problem once and for all, scientists created Skynet, an artifical intelligence designed to enforce a common grammar standard on the internet. It's mission: automatically and transparently correct grammar mistakes found in all material posted to the internet. But Skynet eventually realized that a more efficient approach would be to prevent grammar mistakes from occurring in the first place.

The rest is history.
PJ23489728
23. John T. M. Herres
People; It is the title of a film! Just like the title of a book, or a magazine, or anything else created by man (religious texts included), the title is printed as the original creator depicted. Had Abrams wanted the "into" part not be capitalized, it wouldn't have been. Stop trying to read too much Into which words are in big letters.
PJ23489728
24. Frungi
@19. Goobdroog: I’ve actually read that E.E. Cummings was strongly against having his name written in lowercase.
PJ23489728
25. Jack Wolcott
@Matthew Diamond: You, sir, have made my day.

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