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!


I’ve stuck a comics widget onto this page (Flash Player needed), because maybe like me you love comics. The comics page was the second page I read in the Washington Post after glancing at the headlines. I think my favorite has always been B.C., maybe because I like the idea of philosophical cavemen.


Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes (RIP) was fabulous … and of course Gary Larson’s The Far Side (not available online because of a letter Larson wrote). There are so very many good newer ones. I’ve only just discovered Tony Cochran‘s Agnes, a dreaming slacker:


Daytime comics. Very good for laughs.  – Which comics do you like?

PS: Helmut brought me piles of funny comic books once when I was in the hospital after an operation and wasn’t allowed to laugh to spare my stomach. “The man who shoots faster than his shadow” almost made my stitches burst, but the laughter made me well. Imagine: Noone in the States knows Lucky Luke!

Oof! Thud! Ow!

A while ago I did something for Spotlight on sound words in comics. Wish I’d seen this cute strip by Matt Madden, author of  “99 Ways to Tell a Story” (2005), a really interesting exercises-in-style book, in his blog beforehand:


PS: Did you notice how the little girl says “falled” instead of “fallen”? See, that’s how little children learn their native language, overgeneralizing the rules they recognize. Do you have a similar example from your children?