Appendix:English snowclones

From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Snowclones are a kind of cliché in which the principal words of a 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.


  1. to X or not to X
    • From Hamlet, play by William Shakespeare, ~1600: "To be or not to be", a soliloquy on existence.
  2. 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 them, 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).
  3. X, thy name is Y
    • From Hamlet, play by William Shakespeare, ~1609. It is used to indicate the completeness with which Y embodies a particular quality (X), usually a negative one.
  4. X after X

20th century[edit]

  1. if Eskimos have N words for snow, X have Y words for Z
    • This phrase was the inspiration for the name snowclone. It is a popular urban legend (see Eskimo words for snow) that "Eskimos" (Inuit) have many terms to refer to snow. First referenced in 1911.
  2. 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.
  3. 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".
  4. 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 their work, and is willing to travel to the location of the job.
  5. have I got X for you
  6. 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.)
  7. old X never die, they just Y away
  8. Xing while Y
    • A sardonic play on "driving while intoxicated." Often used to refer to African-Americans being pulled over by police because of racial profiling (e.g. "Driving while Black"). The phrase has now been extended to other groups.
  9. 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.
  10. you won't [rarer: don't] have X to kick around anymore [rarer:any more]
  11. 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
  12. 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.
  13. X a man a Y, you Z him for a day. X a man to Y, you Z him for a lifetime.
  14. I knew X. I Y with X. Z, you're no X!
    • Originating in the 1988 United States vice-presidential debate, when Senator Lloyd Bentsen remarked to Senator Dan Quayle, "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." Often the phrase "Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine." is misquoted as "I worked with Jack Kennedy," the phrase used on a later Saturday Night Live parody. Because of this confusion, often the second section of the template isn't in the snowclone.
    • Examples include:
      • " I knew Jane Goodall, and you are no Jane Goodall" ("George of the Jungle," Disney, 1997)
      • "I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine. And governor, you're no Thomas Jefferson" (Ronald Reagan, 1992)
      • "I know Batman, I once ratted out a counterfeiter to Batman, and believe me, you are no Batman" (Justice League, "Secret Society", Cartoon Network, 2003).
  15. lies, damned lies, and then there are X
    • Attributed to an original quote by Mark Twain. "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
      • "There's lies, damn lies and then there's history" is common.
      • "There's lies, damn lies and then there's Y-ology (-ologists)" is also common.
      • "There's lies, damn lies and then there's (political party/ politician)" can easily be found.
  16. I'm an X, not a Y
    • 1966-1969, from several Star Trek episodes, where the character Dr. McCoy says to Captain Kirk, "I'm a doctor, not an engineer (or bricklayer, mechanic, etc.)!" (The phrase was later used with even more gusto by The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager.)
  17. if it's X, this must be Y
  18. I am X, hear me Y
    • From Helen Reddy's 1971/2 song "I Am Woman," which became a feminist anthem and included the lyric "I am woman, hear me roar."
  19. take this X and shove it
  20. in X, no one can hear you Y
    • From the tagline for the 1979 film 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.
  21. the X strikes back
    • From the 1980 film Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
  22. don't hate me because I'm X
    • Probably from a 1980s shampoo commercial, "don't hate me because I'm beautiful".
  23. in Soviet Russia, Y Xs you!
    • Often known as Russian reversal, this construction was popularised 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.
  24. 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".
  25. use the X, Luke
    • From the film Star Wars (1977), in which Luke Skywalker is exhorted: "use the Force, Luke".
  26. I, for one, welcome our new X overlords
    • Popularised and probably originated by The Simpsons episode "Deep Space Homer". Commonly misattributed to the film Empire of the Ants (1977).
  27. I am X's Y
    • Popularized by the film Fight Club (1999), originally from a series of 1960s and 1970s medical articles in Reader's Digest magazine, having titles such as I am Jane's Uterus and I am Joe's Prostate, in which organs in the human body talk about themselves in the first person. Credited in chapter 7 of Fight Club, the novel by Chuck Palahniuk.
  28. mother of all X
    • A hyperbole used to refer to something as "great" or "the greatest of its kind". It entered American popular culture in September 1990 at the outset of the Gulf War.
  29. You wait ages for an X, and then Y show up at once
    • Originally a standard lament about buses in British towns (see bus bunching). "three" is the usual number, but is not invariable.
  30. It's X wot won it
  31. (chiefly computing) X considered harmful
  32. Zen and the art of X
  33. I love the smell of X in the morning
    • From the film Apocalypse Now (1979), where Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) says, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."
  34. the X is strong with this one
    • From the film Star Wars.
  35. Wot no X?
    • Used to complain humorously that something is not available. Wartime origin, referring to the unavailability of certain items due to rationing.
  36. X rides again
    • Used to indicate that something is back, or better than ever. Refers to the titles of various Western films.
  37. what happens in X, stays in X
    • Widespread use originating in television commercials advertising Las Vegas as a tourist destination.
  38. Ride the X train
  39. X does not a Y make
  40. little X that could
  41. holy X, Batman.
    • Based on various exclamations by Robin, sidekick to the superhero Batman, in the 1960s TV series version of the franchise.
  42. X has left the building
  43. X with Chinese characteristics
  44. tough on X, tough on the causes of X
    • Originally (with "crime" for X) a slogan of British prime minister Tony Blair.
  45. this is your brain on X
    • 1980s, US anti-drug campaign by Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA)
  46. some of my best friends are X
    • Originally a song, Some of My Best Friends Are the Blues (A. Byron, W. Harris)
  47. it's the X, stupid
  48. everything you wanted to know about X, but were afraid to ask
  49. X? Where we're going we don't need X
    • Originally "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads", from Back to the Future (1985).
  50. the shape of X to come
  51. X% of all statistics are made up
  52. I got your X right here

21st century[edit]

  1. 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)).
  2. one does not simply X into Y
    • From the character Boromir's warning "One does not simply walk into Mordor" in the 2001 film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. X is usually a verb indicating movement or entrance (such as stroll or log), and Y is something considered risky, difficult, etc., or implied to be so in a satirical manner.
  3. X lied, Y died
    • Originated in 2003 with "Bush lied, people died", in reference to the casualties of the 2003 invasion of Iraq due to U.S. President George W. Bush's claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, after no such weapons were found.
  4. From Russia with X
    • James Bond returned from Russia with Love. Google search reveals a surprisingly large and diverse list of things journalists brought from Russia into titles of their articles: NY Times, WPost.
  5. Xy McXface
  6. I'm looking at you, X
    • Used to playfully point out that X is an example of what is being (unfavorably) discussed. X is not really being directly addressed, so X can be anything or anyone, inanimate or animate, abstract or concrete.
  7. make X Y again
    • X is a noun (usually uncountable or plural) or proper noun, while Y is an adjective or verb. Popularized by Donald Trump's 2016 U.S. presidential campaign slogan "Make America Great Again".
  8. tell me X without (actually) telling me X
    • X is often a phrase of the form "you're noun/adjective". Used to indicate that a certain behavior is very indicative of something even in absence of an explicit mention. Emerged in 2019 on social media.
  9. the real X is the friends we made along the way
  10. there is a(n) X for that
    • From the Apple slogan “There's an app for that”

Date unknown[edit]

  1. X breeds Y
  2. what price X?
  3. the X, the whole X, and nothing but the X
    • In its canonical form, this expression is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
  4. remember when X? Pepperidge Farm remembers
  5. 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".
  6. 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" (attested 1965). A few can be replaced with numbers, and short can be replaced with shy.
  7. 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?"; [5].
  8. 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".
  9. 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.
  10. that's X for you.
  11. 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.
  12. the great X in the sky
    • X is some place, activity, group, etc. a dead person was known to be associated with, and enjoyed.
  13. 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.
  14. X, they said. It'll be fun, they said.
    • X is most commonly "join the army". Its origin is unattested but the phrase dates back to the 20th century.
  15. make like X and Y
  16. welcome to X(-town), population: you
  17. an X that just won't quit
  18. if I had an X for every time I Y
  19. X is X
    • Asserting the virtue or essential nature of X: "justice is justice", "fair is fair", "$20 is $20", "love is love".
  20. as X as it gets. Using the basic adjective to make a superlative phrase.
    • That's about as good as it gets. = The best possible outcome.
  21. X.exe has stopped working
  22. the X to end all Xs
    • A really great or big X, e.g. "the party to end all parties". Possibly genericized from war to end all wars, used by optimists during World War I when it still had a literal sense.
  23. the X of all Xs
    • Refers to the greatest or most prominent example of its kind (see also mother of all Xs and the X to end all Xs).
  24. one likes X, but X doesn't like one
  25. come back X, all is forgiven
    • Asking for the return of a previously rejected person, or fictitious character (or maybe something like a year) because the situation has become even worse.
  26. if X is not Y, then I don't know what is
    • X is the most obvious example of Y.
  27. if that's not X, I don't know what is
    • A variant on the above.
  28. X will be X
  29. I can't believe it's not X
  30. If it Ws like a X, Ys like a X, and Zs like a X, then it probably is a X.
  31. X is the Y of Z
    • Used to emphasize one or more similarities between X and Y, where X belongs to Z, but Y does not. [3]
  32. If X can't Y, nothing will.
    • Used to show that X is being used as a last resort after many failed attempts to do task Y.
  33. It's only X if it comes from the X region of France, otherwise it's sparkling Y
    • Originally "it's only champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France, otherwise it's sparkling wine".
  34. Every X is different.
    • Used to show or emphasize diversity, that every case is unique, and no two are alike.
  35. Different X have different Y
    • Used to show or emphasize diversity, that every case is different. (e.g., "Different people have different tastes in music.")
  36. There are two types of people in the world, X and Y
    • Dichotomy used for Tautologies, False Dichotomies, Unitary Groupings or Meta Humor [4] (e.g., "There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.")
  37. What's X among friends?
    • Used once in Calvin and Hobbes
  38. If you've seen one X, you've seen them all
    • Used once in Calvin and Hobbes
  39. X is a hell of a drug

Further information[edit]

Possible examples[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]