It is kind of great, spawning stuff like this:
And there are plenty, plenty more where those came from.
So, who's behind this magical Twitter that's bringing joy to stressed-out New Yorkers? Rob Meyer and Nick Castele, two twentysomething friends who met at Northwestern, who began to tweet their favorite Times headlines at each other "at some point in the past few weeks or months," Castele told me, using hashtags like #prepositionalheadlinewatch. Castele works at WCPN, Cleveland's public radio station, while Rob, also a contributor to The Atlantic, is a senior at Northwestern. "A couple weeks ago, Rob went ahead and reserved @NYTPrepositions. It's been gaining steam ever since." Rob and Nick both have to agree a headline is tweet-worthy, and once they agree, it's "sent back into the Twitterverse."
As for the "rules" (because not everyone's using prepositions first in their book titles, I noticed), Castele says they're figuring it out as they go. "We're looking for NYT headlines that take a mundane or silly idea and, through the power of the front-loaded prepositional phrase, make the idea seem sort of grand. We really just look for headlines that make us laugh," he said. In the process of the inversion, the headlines "imbue the subject with an air of importance—whether it's something serious like a presidential campaign or something commonplace like kale." There are a few different forms of inverted Times headlines, he noted: "Some start with prepositional phrases, and others start with dependent clauses. For the time being we're trying to avoid the clauses and focus on the phrases. But we're always open to change."
He adds that this is an homage, not a mockery: "Just to be clear—I kind of like them. I write Times-style headlines probably more often than I should. Not sure if Rob feels the same way, though."
As for the viral success of #NYTBooks and #NYTMovies (in the same vein, different media: "On the Orient Express, a Murder"), he credits Dan Amira's post at Daily Intel with getting those two hashtags going. "I've made a couple weak contributions. But the time has finally come to close that tab on my browser and get back to work," he says. There's the rub, ah. Update: Mother Jones' Timothy Murphy is getting the Twitter cred for starting the #NYTBooks and #NYTMovies hashtags, apparently, which he did "shortly after #ff'ing @NYTPrepositions," Castele tells us.