Snowclones are a kind of cliché in which the principal words of one phrase are changed while the structure of the phrase remains the same. These phrases are most often documented by replacing the variable words with letters (such as "X" and "Y"). This is how they are listed here. More detail can be found at the subpage for each snowclone.
- to X or not to X
- From Hamlet, play by William Shakespeare, ~1600: "To be or not to be", a soliloquy on existence.
- X me no Xs
- Popular in literature from the 16th to the 18th centuries, in which the speaker is asking that something not be provided to him, often (but not always) as a pun incorporating the use of a particular word both as a verb and as a noun. For example, "But me no buts"; "Cause me no causes", Philip Massinger, A New Way to Pay Old Debts (1625); "Play me no plays", Samuel Foote, The Knights (1748); "Tennessee me no Tennessees", Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody (1972).
- If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z
- X? We don't need no stinkin' X!
- Originally "Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!", from various adaptations of a 1927 book, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", most notably a 1974 film.
- X and Y and Z, oh my!
- From The Wizard of Oz, 1939: originally "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" X, Y and Z can be singular, plural or non-count, but the phrase usually remains with the stress pattern of "lions and tigers and bears, oh my".
- have X, will travel
- Popularized by a late 1950's TV show Have Gun – Will Travel; the implication is that the speaker of the phrase is for hire, owns a piece of equipment necessary to perform his work, and is willing to travel to the location of the job.
- X, not stirred
- X is a past participle. Originally shaken, not stirred, from the James Bond books and movies, describing how Bond likes his martinis. (According to Wikipedia, it appeared first in 1956's novel Diamonds Are Forever, and first in movies in 1964's Goldfinger.)
- Y. X Y.
- X is a given name and Y a surname, or, more generally, X Y is the complete multi-word (especially two-word) name of something. Originally Bond. James Bond., from the James Bond movies, first in Dr. No, 1962.
- you won't [rarer: don't] have X to kick around anymore [rarer:any more]
- X is the new Y
- Originally used with the names of color being used in current fashion trends, such as gray is the new black, 1960s
- all X, all the time
- 1965, popularized as "All news, all the time" by WINS (AM) (New York), the first all-news radio station. It is used of 24/7 broadcast formats or things similarly characterized. At COCA, the most common Xs are "Monica [Lewinsky]", "rumor", "business", "speculation", but recently: SiriusXM Radio is launching a three-day, “All Harry, All The Time” channel devoted to the books, films and characters. Of a reported 178 hits for 6-7/12/2011 at Google News about 2/3 were for this sense.
- I'm a(n) X, not a(n) Y!
- 1966-1969, from several Star Trek films, where the character Dr. McCoy says to Captain Kirk, "I'm a doctor, not an engineer (or bricklayer, mechanic, etc.)!"
- if it's X, this must be Y
- X is the name of a day of the week (i.e., one of Sunday, Monday, etc.) From the title of the 1969 film If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
- I am X, hear me Y
- From a 1972 song which included the lyric "I am woman, hear me roar".
- take this X and shove it
- Mid-1900s, especially popularized with the 1978 song and 1981 film titled Take This Job and Shove It.
- in X, no one can hear you Y
- From the tagline for the 1979 movie Alien: "In space, no one can hear you scream". X is usually a word having some relation to space, and Y is usually something done with the voice.
- don't hate me because I'm X
- Probably from a 1980s shampoo commercial, "don't hate me because I'm beautiful".
- in Soviet Russia, Y Xs you!
- Often known as Russian reversal, this construction was introduced by Yakov Smirnoff in the 1980s. Usually taken from a simple "[noun] [verb]s [object]" construction and reversed. In this way "you watch television" would become "In Soviet Russia, television watches you!" Often written in faux Cyrillic.
- I'm not an X, but I play one on TV
- From a 1986 cough syrup ad - originally "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV".
- I, for one, welcome our new X overlords
- From an episode of The Simpsons in February 1994: “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.”
- save a(n) X, Y a Z
- Unknown origin, but popularized in 2004 by the country song Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy). Y is usually a verb (such as ride or eat), X is something which is habitually "Y"ed (such as a horse (ridden) or a tree (eaten)), and Z is the stereotypical "Y"er of X (such as a cowboy (rider) or beaver (eater)).
- use the X, Luke
- to put the X in Y
- Y is a word whose pronunciation (or sometimes spelling) has as a substring the pronunciation (respectively, spelling) of X. For example, to put the "fun" in "fundamental", to put the "meow" in "homeowner", or to put the "U" (the "you") in "utopia".
- a few X short of a Y
- Used as a euphemism for someone else's being strange or demented. Such phrases are known as full-deckisms, after a popular form "a few cards short of a deck" or that one is "not playing with a full deck". A few can be replaced with numbers, and short can be replaced with shy.
- What is this X of which you speak?
- Often used to present a sense of archaic lack of knowledge, as where one party suggests looking something up on the internet, and the other responds, "what is this internet of which you speak?"; .
- X called: they want their Y back
- Used to disparage a style or activity as being outdated, parochial, or imitative of a notable person; for example, towards someone wearing leg warmers and a sweater with shoulder pads, "The 1980s called, they want their clothes back".
- X with a capital Y
- Y is typically the first letter of X, as in terrible with a capital T, or jerk with a capital J. Emphasized form of X.
- that's X for you.
- holy X, Batman.
- leave X Y
- X can be "it" or some emblem of exertion. Y is usually a prepositional phrase denoting a place, such as "on the field". From sports journalism it has spread throughout sports and to business.
- everything you wanted to know about X, but were afraid to ask
- From the title of the book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)
- gone to that great X in the sky
- X is some place, activity, group, etc. a dead person was known to be associated with, and enjoyed. This is a euphemistic way of saying that the person in question has died, but can also be used as a joke by making X something incongruous.
- gone to be with X
- X is someone presumed to be in heaven that a dead person would want to see: either a deity/dead religious figure, or a dead loved one. A euphemistic replacement for saying the person in question has died.
- X, they said. It'll be fun, they said.
- make like X and Y
- A form of pun, where Y is the verb for a proposed action (usually departing), and X is a noun that (punningly) might be thought to perform that action: e.g. "make like a tree and leave", "make like a baby and head out", "make like horseshit and hit the trail", "make like a banana and split".
- Snowclone on Wikipedia.Wikipedia:Snowclone
- Construction grammar on Wikipedia.Wikipedia:Construction grammar