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Tim Spalding

I think I might blog this too, but here's a quick reaction.

See LibraryThing's tag cloud for "courtship."

It's *very* different. It's not so much that LibraryThing is mostly showing non-fiction books (a difference between the systems in general), but that LibraryThing's list is largely composed of evangelical Christian books presenting "courtship" as an alternative to secular dating. The term seems to have spread from non-fiction books, such as Joshua Harris' popular _Boy meets girl : say hello to courtship_, but is now applied to some books otherwise tagged "Christian romance"--mass market romance with those styled covers, but where the bodice doesn't get ripped until the ring's on the finger.

Something linguistically interesting is going on here. Contemporary culture has lost the word "courtship," having moved on to "dating" and such. If you're of an academic bent, you may use it describe, say, the pre-marriage rituals of the !Kung or, with conscious historicism, Jane Austen's novels. But, as LibraryThing shows, the really vital use is as a pointed restatement and rehabilitation--purposefully selecting a formerly "unmarked" term, and making it a marked one designed to advocate for a particular point of view.

As you state, Fiction Finder is getting its tags from library subject headings and, as we all know, they have to stay constant. So we have the fusty "cookery" instead of "cooking" and so forth.*

In most such cases the "library word" is just dated, it's only drawback being low "findability," except to trained professionals. In this case, the word has actually changed usage in contemporary culture. An sophisticated consumer of library information might see "courtship" and anticipate that the library term might somehow cough up _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, _Oliver Twist_ (#2 in the current list) and _Anna Karenina_ (#5) although surely these are hardly the most relevant examples of the original topic.**

But I suspect the "regular" users will see the unusual term "courtship" and expect it to show books related to what the term means today, and be upset when Anna Karenina seems to have a lot more flat-out adultery than pre-marital abstinence.

*Amazingly "cookery" is ALSO on the top page of Fiction Finder, on account of the unexpectedly vibrant caterer-turned-consulting-detective genre.
**The ranking on Fiction Finder is as wonky as you could expect from subjects, an inherently binary system. In what universe is _The Red Badge of Courage_ the most relevant book about "City and Town Life"? (And exactly who hungers to read books on that vague super-category anyway?)


I'm trying to debate whether to change the name of my love story writing company so younger people can understand what it is. It has the word 'courtship' in it.


Do you think 20 somethings know the meaning of the word courtship? I think christian couples might.

Please do not use my entire company name if you want to address this post.

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