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I mean, apart from the fact that the former is the title of a famous novel. Can you define the difference? What are the different shades of meaning here?

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If you're talking about "Of" and "On" when they both mean "about", here's the difference:

"Of" means that the story belongs to the "mice and men". It means that it is primarily their story.

"On" means that the story simply happens to be about those people. Titles of "On ____" are usually reserved for close studies rather than stories.

However, that's not where the actual title of the book comes from. Its origin is an old poem by Robert Burns, from a line "The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley". It roughly means "Plans made by mice and men both end up terribly for their creators very often."

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  • Thank you. Great answer. (And, yes, I know where it comes from).
    – Ricky
    Dec 3 '15 at 6:18
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I'm not sure if this the answer you're looking for.

The first implies the Mice and Men's possession of something.

The second could mean lots of things. It could mean that something is physically attached or in connection with Mice and Men. It could also mean that someone is responsible for or talks about them.

You should know that the meaning can change depending on the sentence. Those are not complete sentences.

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  • It isn't, but thanks for the effort.
    – Ricky
    Dec 3 '15 at 5:48
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Apart from its use as a famous title, and apart from its use in the adage....

There is a difference between "of {something}" and "on {something}". On suggests a treatise discussing the named subject in an organized, pedagogical manner, whereas of is more freeform, and could be an essay or a story or a contemplative philosophical meditation involving the named subject.

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