When it comes to world class pedantry, few groups can challenge the prowess of Wikipedians and Star Trek fans. So when the two come together it’s little surprise they create a swirling maelstrom of anal retention from which no common sense can escape.
Case in point: The Wikipedia talk page for the new movie Star Trek Into Darkness. There, Wikipedians and Wikipedia Star Trek fans have engaged in a heated conflict that’s raged for nearly two months. In total, more than 40,000 words have been lobbed in the fight. Earlier today, the debate was even the subject of a mocking cartoon at the popular Web comic XKCD.
The point of contention? Whether “Into” should be capitalized in the movie’s name.
The new film is the second installment in the series to be directed by J.J. Abrams, the guy behind hit shows Lost and Fringe, among others, and a master of both suspense and the art of cleverly hiding secret messages. For hardcore Lost fans, half of the show’s fun was delving into the easter eggs and hidden plot points the producers scattered throughout every episode. So perhaps Abrams knew what he was getting into when he gave his film such a grammatically bizarre title.
Note two key things about the name: First, the “I” in “into” is capitalized. (According to Wikipedia’s own style guide, prepositions of four letters or less are never capitalized.) Second, there’s no colon that would indicate “Into Darkness” is a subtitle, i.e., a secondary title to “Star Trek.” In every preceding Star Trek movie, the subtitle was indicated with a colon. So, for instance, you had Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan instead of Star Trek II Wrath of Khan.
We won’t force you to experience excruciating detail the main arguments from both sides. They are exhaustive and pedantic to such an extent that “pedantic” no longer seems a suitable adjective. Thankfully, for those who don’t want to spend the next three years reading through each twist and turn in the debate, Wikipedian Frungi has compiled a helpful summary of the main thrust of each side’s arguments.
Here they are:
“Arguments for the lowercase I
“Into Darkness” may not be a subtitle, and “Star Trek into Darkness” may have been intended to be read as a sentence.
Assuming it’s not a subtitle, the [manual of style] dictates a lowercase preposition.
Treating “into Darkness” as a subtitle without punctuation would be original research.
Allowing it to be interpreted as a subtitle would play into the studio’s marketing.
- The creator said that the title would not have a subtitle with a colon
Arguments for the uppercase I
“Into Darkness” may be a subtitle, in line with the precedence of every Star Trek movie title longer than two words.
Assuming it is a subtitle, the [manual of style] dictates the first word be capitalized.
Treating “Into Darkness” as part of a sentence would be original research.
Capitalizing the possible subtitle would allow it to be interpreted either way.
Every official, and the vast majority of secondary, sources capitalize it, and Wikipedia should follow this real-world use.
The sentence “Star trek into darkness” makes no grammatical sense.
- The creator said that the title would have a subtitle rather than a number, and that the subtitle would not have a colon.”
You may have noticed we’ve stuck to consistent capitalization throughout this story. That’s because we agree with the sentiment of an anonymous Wikipedian who created this passionate piece of vandalism at the top of the talk page earlier today:
“READ THE GODDAMN OFFICIAL WEBSITE, YOU POMPOUS IDIOTS”
Paramount consistently titles the film with a capital “I.” It’s Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s not a marketing ploy. Marketers have much better ways to promote a movie than to play around with naming conventions. And besides, Star Trek into Darkness simply does not make grammatical sense. Star Trek is a noun—a thing, not an action. You cannot “Star trek into” anything.
So Star Trek Into Darkness is the movie’s official name. That’s it. End of story.
But not at Wikipedia. No, there users have reached a compromise. A way to please everyone and no one—and at the same time make the encyclopedia look rather ridiculous.
The first line of the entry now reads:
Star Trek into Darkness (usually written as Star Trek Into Darkness)
A shining moment in the history of crowdsourcing, if there ever was one.
Image via Paramount