I am X, hear me Y

I am taking advantage of Mark Liberman’s legwork on this one today.

In Helen Reddy‘s 1972 song “I am Woman,” she says, “I am woman, hear me roar.”

X is still most often woman, calling up the feminist yell of the song, and the verb Y varies along roar‘s semantic spectrum, at least in the sense of noises you can make with your mouth: bitch and moan, despair, blubber, expound, meow, whine, moo, whimper, laugh, sing, scream, rhyme, sing torch & twang, purr. Y may also rhyme with roar but have little or no semantic relation: bore, snore, tour (well, in some dialects), soar, whore, pour, war.

Y does not seem to have restrictions limiting it to semantic or phonological similarity to the original, however. Shop, rock, walk, set off the airport security detector, kick ass, meme, campaign, run, ramble, click, stab, game, blend, draw, caulk, blog, and shoot also appear in this snowclone on the web.

When X varies, it seems to most often be a name, as we might expect with a statement that starts with “I am”: Peter, worm, GeekGirl, Justin Bonomo, Boobalicious, Kittenwar, protoplasm, Naturezilla, Superwoman, Catwoman, Hobbes, geek, blogger, Monki, Lizmonster, Hellionexciter, lion, mommy, milquetoast, Corolla, Gibbon.

I was aware of this snowclone before I knew it came from a song. I wonder if others who use it–particularly those who use it without any reference to being woman or roaring–are also not aware of the song. Snowclones seem to break free of their original referents to varying degrees; I’d be interested to see if there’s any pattern. It doesn’t seem to be only the passing of time that separates a snowclone’s usage from its origin. For example, everyone I’ve asked about “X and Y and Z, oh my!” knows it refers to The Wizard of Oz, even though the movie is almost 70 years old. This probably says as much about the ubiquity of this particular film as it does about the constraints or lack thereof on the snowclone. There’s probably a generational difference in people’s awareness of the origin of “I am X, hear me Y” just as there is with “X? We don’t need no stinking X!”

2 responses to “I am X, hear me Y

  1. I had absolutely never knew that “X and Y and Z, oh my!” referred to Oz, although I blame it on being a French speaker and never having actually seen the movie in English.

  2. When I was in college, I used to do an interpretive dance piece called “I am woman, hear me roar; I am man, see me cringe.” It was supposed to be a joke; even the title was supposed to be a joke about snowclones.

    When I performed it people would take it seriously. Which, I suppose, was part of the joke.

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