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Blend of snow cone +‎ clone, after the popular idea that the Inuit have a large number of words for different types of snow; coined by Glen Whitman in response to Geoffrey Pullum on the blog Language Log.



snowclone (plural snowclones)

  1. A type of cliché which uses an old idiom formulaically placed in a new context.
    "To fry or not to fry" is a snowclone of the famous quotation from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "To be or not to be".
    • 2005 November 5, auuV, “Some articles that I like. They are about language,”, in alt.running.out.of.newsgroup.names (Usenet):
      I stumbled upon the site the other day, when I was looking up the origins of the "Im not an X, but I play one on TV" snowclone.
    • 2005 December 3, David Rowan, “"Snowclone" journalism”, Trendsurfing, in The Times[1], archived from the original on 6 September 2006:
      Suddenly snowclone hunters were documenting media usages suggesting that, in space, no one can hear you belch, bitch, blog, speak, squeak or suck.
    • 2006 June 20, Michael Erard, “Analyzing Eggcorns and Snowclones, and Challenging Strunk and White”, in The New York Times, page F4:
      Regular readers learned there first about snowclones, the basic building blocks of cliches, like "X is the new Y" or "you don't need a degree in A to do B."
    • 2006 July, Mark Peters, “Not Your Father's Cliché”, in Columbia Journalism Review, volume 45, number 2, page 14:
      If so, you're being snowed under by snowclones — a category of fill-in-the-blank cliché identified by linguists.
    • 2006 Nov 18, unknown author, "Snowclone", in New Scientist 192(2578), page 80
      When you read phrases like these in a newspaper, you've stumbled across a particular type of cliché: the snowclone.

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