What 4 New Snowclones Like 'X-ers Gonna X' Have in Common
How is language evolving on the internet? In this series on internet linguistics, Gretchen McCulloch breaks down the latest innovations in online communication.
A snowclone is a fun kind of phrasal template, a sort of quote with one or more words that can be swapped around. Here are a few from the Snowclones Database with just a single slot:
It's x all the way down Consider the x I x therefore I am I, for one, welcome our x overlords
Other snowclones have several slots, but with different items in each:
x is the new y Save an x ride a y x and y and z, oh my! Dammit Jim, I'm an x not a y Putting the x in y i'm in ur x, y-ing ur z
But there are several newish snowclones on the internet, and they belong to a rarer category: They each have several slots, but for the same word.
1. X FOR THE X GOD
The "x for the x god" snowclone (sometimes also "x for the x throne") started off as the quote "Blood for the Blood God, Skulls for the Skull Throne," which in turn comes from the game Warhammer 40,000. One of the characters in it is Khorne, the Blood God, and as explained by Reddit user Lucretiel:
He sits on a brass throne, atop a mountain of skulls centered in a lake of blood. Whenever his followers spill the blood of his enemies, that blood is added to the lake, and when they are slain, their skulls become part of the skull throne.
The phrase "blood for the blood god" has entered popular culture beyond the scope of the game—it's seen, for example, in this SMBC comic—but it was such a clear template that it was ripe for innovation.
Now the "x for the x god" template can also be used to express overwhelming enthusiasm/maniacal rage for just about any topic. One particularly great example is @godtributes on Twitter, which is a bot that posts all sorts of variants:
2. X THING IS X
There are lots of things that can be described in the snowclone "x thing is x" (more strictly speaking, "x y is x"). All of the following get multiple results on twitter:
sad thing is sad ridiculous people are ridiculous delicious irony/schadenfreude is delicious beautiful person is beautiful terrible troll is terrible fake account is fake smol cat is smol awesome dog is awesome
3. BEST X OR BEST X
"Best x or best x" is a way of emphasizing how truly great something is (I also tried searching for several variants on "worst x or worst x," but it's not nearly as common).
best news or best news best morning or best morning
4. X-ERS GONNA X
"X-ers gonna x" is best known these days from Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off":
cause the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate and the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
But the earliest popular usage was in the 2000 song “
” by 3LW:
The playas gon’ play Them haters gonna hate Them callers gonna call Them ballers gonna ball
The four templates in this list aren't the only snowclones involving repetition of the same slot, of course: there are also some classics like "to x or not to x, that is the question" or "the first rule of x is you don't talk about x" but there's a difference between this group and the classic quotes.
All of the examples here are, strictly speaking, redundant: Of course a thing that is awesome is also an awesome thing, of course a hater is also a person who hates, of course a decision between something and the same thing isn't really a decision, of course blood is a fitting tribute to the blood god. But we're still communicating something when we say them—like asking questions using y/y, they show that language can be about emphasis and creativity, not just stark efficiency.