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 Nov 5, auuV, "Some articles that I like. They are about language," 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, "Trendsurfing: 'Snowclone' journalism" [1], The Times
      Suddenly snowclone hunters were documenting media usages suggesting that, in space, no one can hear you belch, bitch, blog, speak, squeak or suck.
    • 2006 Jun 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 Jul, Mark Peters, "Not Your Father's Cliché", in Columbia Journalism Review 45(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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