Welcome to the Snowclones Database

The Snowclone(s)1 Database was inspired primarily by Mark Liberman et al’s Language Log and Chris Weigl’s Eggcorn Database. If you are here, you probably already have some idea of what a snowclone is, but in case you’re not sure, here’s some quick review.

A snowclone is a particular kind of cliche, popularly originated by Geoff Pullum. The name comes from Dr. Pullum’s much-maligned “If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z”. An easier example might be “X is the new Y.” The short definition of this neologism might be n. fill-in-the-blank headline. The phenomenon is real enough to have 90,000 Google hits as of this moment and a Wikipedia entry.

The definition of snowclone is somewhat fluid, by its nature, but there are some ground rules. I consider a high number of google hits with significant variation evidence for a phrase’s snowclonehood. Snowclones are a subset of cliches, but not all cliches are snowclones. (Depending how how strictly you define “cliche”, not all snowclones are cliches, either.) Your favorite Simpsons quote is not necessarily a snowclone.

I first discussed snowclones here.
1 My usage varies freely, as far as I can tell, between “the snowclone database” and “the snowclones database”. Be welcome to use either.

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2 responses to “Welcome to the Snowclones Database

  1. I love snowclones (I wrote that WikiQuote entry on X me no X’s) but I have to say that having a Wikipedia article is not an end-all be-all sign of importance. It’s just a sign that at least one nerd cares about the concept, and no one else jumped up to challenge its notability. Cheers!

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