What Does ‘Paper Towns’ Title Mean? John Green’s Book & Movie Vaguely Connects To Your Life

The countdown to John Green's latest movie adaptation is ticking by slowly but surely, and Paper Towns will premiere on July 24. The story is about the mysterious disappearance of Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne), the neighbor and crush of main character and narrator Quentin "Q" Jacobsen (Nat Wolff), and his quest to find her. That's not the only mystery when it comes to Paper Towns, though — one of the biggest ones is about the book's title. So, what does "paper towns" mean? Green explained its entire meaning on a Tumblr blog post, but since that includes spoilers from the book, he also broke down the easiest (and least spoiler-y) answer in a video blog.

"It means different things to Q, the narrator, at different points in the story. But in real life, the phrase 'Paper Towns' is about copyright. Mapmakers create fictitious entries in their maps to make sure that no one else is copying them. If you put my fake place on your map, I know that you've stolen from me."

Green went on to explain that this also happens in other types of educational materials, like encyclopedias and dictionaries, and even Google Maps uses the paper town tactic. However, "it's usually not paper towns; it's usually paper streets or paper bridges." Green liked this idea so much that he even named a character after a paper person he stumbled upon.

"Margo's dog is named Myrna Moutweasel in honor of this fictitious entry from the New Columbia Encyclopedia about Lillian Virginia Mountweasel. The encyclopedia said that she was a fountain designer and photographer who died in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine."
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For a more in-depth look at what "paper towns" means throughout the book — spoilers included — check out Green's whole blog post here. For starters, as we see in the trailer, the first way it is defined is that Orlando is a paper town because "it’s flimsy and planned–from above — Orlando looks very much like a city that someone built out of origami or something." As for the others? You'll have to read the blog or the book to find out how they connect to Q's search for Margo.

Image: 20th Century Fox