Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Disregarding alphabetization

I'm anal retentive to a fault.

I love lists, and I love alphabetizing those lists. And I've developed very clear ideas of how to alphabetize, when an instance of ambiguous alphabetization arises. Little is left to randomness and none to chance.

However, there's one thing that comes along to throw the whole thing off:

How two names sound when credited next to each other.

If am going to list two directors, the rule I follow is that the one whose name comes closest to the beginning of the alphabet -- last name if they have different ones, first name if they don't -- goes first.

Except, of course, when I don't follow it.

Take the most prominent example, and the one that gave me the idea for this post when I was making up another one of my big movie lists recently: the Coen brothers. The correct way to list their names should be as Ethan and Joel Coen. That's often how you see their names in print nowadays. But I can't do it. These guys are, and have always been, Joel and Ethan Coen.

The brothers Farrelly have the same problem. They have never been Bobby and Peter Farrelly. They are, and should be, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, for a simple reason that's impossible to support with any type of objective evidence: the names just sound better that way.

Could it ever be Caro et Jeunet? No. It could only be Jeunet et Caro.

I do find it problematic, though. It offends my sense of order on some level. Yet I can't go inviting chaos by referring to them as "Ethan and Joel Coen." That's not who they are. They are Joel and Ethan, and that's who they have always been.

Joel must have won a coin toss back in the day, which led them originally to spurn the alphabet and ask for their names to be credited in this precise order. The rest is history, and I'm not going to overturn that history just because I'm anal retentive.

It's interesting, however, how often alphabetical order has been disregarded by these teams of director partners. The Wachowskis are Larry (now Lana) and Andy. The Hughes are Allen and Albert. (Aren't they? I think they are.) Those who go in the correct order (Jay and Mark Duplass, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) seem comparatively fewer.

Then there are of course those where the comparative prominence of the directors dictates the order. Evan Goldberg is never going to jump ahead of Seth Rogen, even though both of Evan's names comes earlier in the alphabet than either of Seth's. And are you more likely to be interested to know that Nick Park directed Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, or Steve Box?

Was this something worth writing about? Who knows.

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