What English Needs—By Peter William Carrillo SpecGram Vol CLXX, No 2 Contents What is That Mess on the Cover?—The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics  Cover Contest—Advertisement
Speculative Grammarian, in association with the X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies, is proud to present yet another irregular installment in the Linguistic Anthropologic Monograph Endowment’s Bizarre Grammars of the World Series.

One Hundred Words for Snowclone

An Anthropological Linguistic Study of Igloovian0

Bizarre Grammars of the World, Vol. 70


Any linguist worthy of attending SALT knows of the linguistic myth that eskimos have hundreds of words for snow. There was even some sort of vocabulary-related hoax or other about it back in the day. This idea has become so ingrained in our culture, so cliché, that there is even a recognizable phrasal template used to discuss it. Such phrasal templates, especially those based on clichés and memes from popular culture, are known as snowclones. Many linguists love snowclones, some surely dislike them, and some even collect them.

On the other hand, one thing a lot of linguists don’t like very much at all is a certain science fictional language in which an alien race spoke only in metaphorical (untemplated!) clichés. Of course such a system is, on the face of it, infeasible. That obviousness has driven one culture, and their language, to the brink of madness.

Historical Background

The Igloovian tribefor most of its history, as best as we’ve been able to reconstruct ithad little to no contact with the outside world. In the late 1870s, that changed, and Igloovians began to learn French as a language of trade and cultural exchange. By the early 1890s, many Igloovians were reasonably fluent in French, but most had still never seen a book. When the first tattered books arrived in their village, most took little notice. But before long the entire village had become addicted to the writings of Jules Verne.

And then came The Day of the Dhaar-Mawk.

Ever since the Igloovians read that now little-known story, they’ve been afraid that some other languagebe it French, Japanese, English, Spanish, Portuguese, or Swahiliwas going to infect their language and culture with these sorts of virulent clichés and rob them of their rich oral history. As a result, they’ve discovered and become experts in indigenous varieties of memetics, rhetoric, and linguisticswith a particular and peculiar focus on clichés and other templated language.

This focus has led the Igloovians to have the richest and most complex terminological system known for discussing templated language, cliché transmission, and cultural contagion.

Linguistic and Meta-Linguistic Data and Meta-Data

Unfortunately, the Igloovians use clichés, templated clichés, terms for templated language, templates for describing templated language, meta-templates for describing meta-terms, and moreand that’s just the preschoolers. As a result, we have had a very hard time deciphering their language. So far, we’ve only managed to understand about five words. Here they are:

eks: a thing

fees’ship: an allusion to a literary source one has not actually read

skimo’e: a comparison with a common misconception

tshi’pshop: a dreadful pun based on a snowclone (e.g., “The Plaice That Launched A Thousand Chips”)

wy: another thing

Fortunately, we are familiar with the Slater Method® and the Igloovians have parlayed their parley-voo into a reasonable command of Englishbetter than most “native-speaker” undergraduates, at least. They have made an extensive study of English-language snowclones, as well, and they have generally been able, very fortunately, to give us examples in English. Whew. We really don’t want to figure out what to make of this example: “Alas! I am very X to say that Y lives have been taken away on the last Z day of 1879, which will be W’d for a very long Q.”

At first they wanted to share several of their wisest proverbs with us. After a small handful, we had to cut them off. They were making us dizzy. Here are a few of the least vertiginous:

In Igloovian, no one can hear you scream. They prefer to wait until you quote an unknown literary source.

Is this the face that launched a thousand ships? Because that would explain the bruises.

You had me at “newt”, but I got better.

Of great interest, of course, are the concepts the Igloovians have devised for discussing snowclones and their ilk. Below are freely translated and explainedmostly by our informant, Maya Therrek-Sizawye. Maya assured us that all of these are mono-morphemic in Igloovian.

Monoclonal snowclones have only one slot, e.g., “I, for one, welcome our new X overlords”. Also, biclonal, triclonal, tetraclonal, and, rarely, pentaclonal. Polymonoclonal snowclones have multiple slots, but all are filled with forms of the same word, as with “X’s, we don’t need no stinking X’s!”

Polyoptal snowclones have multiple slots, one or more of which can retain the word from the original cliché: “X is the new black” or “X is the new Y”; “In space, no one can hear you Y”, “In X, no one can hear you scream”, “In X no one can hear you Y”.

Octogenarial snowclones remind you of cultural references you haven’t heard since the 1980s: “Don’t hate me because I’m X”. Other forms, like septuagenarial and nonagenarial snowclones are attested, but don’t seem to get nearly as much use.

Temporomis­atributational snowclones are those that have had a surge in popularity in recent years, such that younger speakers are unaware of either the original source or the time depth of the source. For example, ”In Soviet Russia, X Y’s you!” is technically octogenarial, but speakers born after 1990 seldom realize this.

Snowsocial snowclones mark the speaker as belonging to a particular social group. As popularity waxes and wanes, this marking can change over time. Originally, “X is the new black” came from the fashion world, and “All your X are belong to us” belonged exclusively to computer gamers. Both now enjoy more widespread currency. “X’s, we don’t need no stinking X’s!” still marks the speaker as a fan of cheesy 1970s screwball comedy-westerns.

Folkal snowclone: one designed to enhance the speaker’s air of rustic authenticitysuch as “Xer than a(n) AdjPhrase Noun in a Location NP with a catchy PP.” Instantiated, for example, as, “Jumpier than a Republican PR flack in a room full of statisticians”.

Prestige snowclones demonstrate knowledge of elite canon; e.g. “the absolute phrase”.

Covert prestige snowclones get you local coolness points. We’re not saying it’s because coolness, but it’s because coolness.

Dr. Noclones are characteristic of megalomaniacal villains: “Who will X you now, negative-affect-Adjective Noun?”

Coclones require one person to start, another to finish.

Sighclones are multi-modality and require heavy breathing or eye-rolls: “Oh sarcastic-Adjective, now Pronoun gets to Verb.”

Phonoclones are snowclones requiring that terms have matching sounds, e.g. extensions of “pogo till you nogo”

The Igloovians further categorize certain subtypes of snowclones that emerge from the attempt to realize a snowclonei.e., they are not types of pattern, but types of instantiation. For example:

Cupertino snowclones are ones derived from a mal-spellchecked version of a different snowclone, such as “pogo till you nougat” or “Deictic expression is a defiant Y.”

Snowcorns are snowclone/eggcorn hybrids, as in “in lame man’s terms”, which could be analyzed as either.

English snowclonology is popular among Igloovians, and they even have names for particular constructions:

The naïve copular snowclone: To X you is to Y you.

The fatal visualization snowclone: See X and die!

The fœtal visualization snowclone: X, honey, X! Almost there, you’re doing great!

The fractal scale snowclone: There is an X, such that X contains, sustains and retains X, and conversely.

The I-Can’t-For-The-Life-Of-Me-Remember-Their-Name snowclone: Mr./Ms. X, I presume?

The X-rated snowclone: What the F is going on here??

After a certain number of days of this kind of talk, everything becomes a bit of a blur, and honestly we sometimes forget which are the real snowclones, which are the simplified snowclones, which are the artificial snowclones, and where the Igloovians keep their snow cones.

As is so often the case, English hasdespite the Igloovians’ extensive study and long-standing paranoiabegun to exert its linguistic hegemony over the Igloovians and their language. This has led to some unfortunate calquing accidents. The “fatal visualization” snowclone was originally translated into English by a young Igloovian as “See X and Y!” When the error was pointed out to her, the young Igloovian said, “I meant See X and die, sorry... The Y/die rhyme snowcloned me!”

We worry that before long, we will discover to our dismay that English is the new Igloovian. To interfere or not to interfere, that is the question.

Tentative Conclusions

More X is necessary to unravel the intricacies of this Y. Said research will require more and abundant Z.

Claude Searsplainpockets and X. Izthunüblakk

Somewhere where no X has Y’d before

0 This paper was partially made possible by LAME grant 2X||¬2X, the numeral ↈ, and the letter ƣ.

What English NeedsBy Peter William Carrillo
What is That Mess on the Cover?The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics Cover ContestAdvertisement
SpecGram Vol CLXX, No 2 Contents