Appendix:English snowclones

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.

The listEdit


  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.
20th centuryEdit
  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. 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. The phrase has now been extended to other groups.
  8. 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.
  9. you won't [rarer: don't] have X to kick around anymore [rarer:any more]
  10. 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
  11. 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.
  12. X a man a Y, you Z him for a day. X a man to Y, you Z him for a lifetime.
  13. 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).
  14. 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.
  15. 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.)
  16. if it's X, this must be Y
  17. 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."
  18. take this X and shove it
  19. 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.
  20. don't hate me because I'm X
    • Probably from a 1980s shampoo commercial, "don't hate me because I'm beautiful".
  21. 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.
  22. 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".
  23. use the X, Luke
    • From the film Star Wars (1977), in which Luke Skywalker is exhorted: "use the Force, Luke".
  24. 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).
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. It's X wot won it
  29. (chiefly computing) X considered harmful
  30. Zen and the art of X
  31. 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."
  32. the X is strong with this one
    • From the film Star Wars.
  33. Wot no X?
    • Used to complain humorously that something is not available. Wartime origin, referring to the unavailability of certain items due to rationing.
  34. X rides again
    • Used to indicate that something is back, or better than ever. Refers to the titles of various Western films.
  35. What happens in X, stays in X
    • Widespread use originating in television commercials advertising Las Vegas as a tourist destination.
  36. Ride the X train
  37. X does not a Y make
  38. little X that could
  39. holy X, Batman.
    • Based on various exclamations by Robin, sidekick to the superhero Batman, in the 1960s TV series version of the franchise.
  40. X has left the building
  41. X with Chinese characteristics
  42. Tough on X, tough on the causes of X
    • Originally (with "crime" for X) a slogan of British prime minister Tony Blair.
  43. This is your brain on X
    • 1980s, US anti-drug campaign by Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA)
21st centuryEdit
  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. 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.
  4. Xy McXface
  5. 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.
  6. make X Y again
    • X is a noun (usually uncountable or plural) or proper noun, while Y is an adjective. Originated from Donald Trump's 2016 U.S. presidential campaign slogan "Make America Great Again".


  1. X breeds Y
    • One example: familiarity breeds complacency
  2. what price X?
  3. the X, the whole X, and nothing but the X
  4. remember when X? Pepperidge Farm does
  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. everything you wanted to know about X, but were afraid to ask
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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".
  17. welcome to X(-town), population: you
  18. an X that just won't quit
  19. if I had an X for every time I Y
  20. X is X
    • Asserting the virtue or essential nature of X: "justice is justice", "fair is fair", "$20 is $20", "love is love".
  21. 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.
  22. X.exe has stopped working
  23. the X to end all Xs
    • A really great or big X, e.g. "the party to end all parties"
  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. X will be X
  28. I can't believe it's not X

Possible examplesEdit

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit