q Snowclones | Anne Hodgson


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I’ve just learned from Stan Carey what a snowclone is. Geoffrey Pullum developed the concept on Language Log back in 2004, for a clichéd phrasal template that gets repeated in innumerable variants.

Geoffrey Pullum:
“I was looking at things like “In space, no one can hear you X”, where the customizability is that you get to choose the verb X, but the laziness is that you don’t have to do anything else, and just about everyone will know you are alluding to the poster slogan for Alien. The concept was named later by someone else, Glen Whitman, who chose “snowclone” because of the practice of cloning variants of my original example, a rather complex and ill-defined one: If the Eskimos have N words for snow, X have {even more / just as many / a similar number} for Y. “

Lazy, yes, but in fact we find snowclones – and snowcloning – very playful and amusing, I think. Just have a look at the collection in the Snowclones Database. It’s great thinking back to the origin of each snowclone and collecting variants. Here are my 20 favorites:

  • X is the mother of Y
  • X is the new Y
  • This is your brain on X
  • I (shape) X
  • My kingdom for an X
  • going to X like I’ve/we’ve never Xed before!
  • X is the Y of Z
  • The only good X is a dead X
  • Whatever Xes your Y
  • Got X?
  • A few X short of a Y
  • To X or not to X
  • I am X, hear me Y
  • have X, will travel
  • Pimp my X
  • The end of X as we know it
  • X for Dummies
  • Xgate (Pullum does not allow this, as it’s a lexical word-formation)
  • Xcore (he would then also disallow this)

But this is ok:

  • Men are from X/ Mars, women are from Y

And look what I stumbled across today:Committed

I’m collecting … will be sorting … and would be grateful for any associations you may have … and for lists off the top of your head!


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