X is the Y of Z: pop music edition

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Continuing today's snowclone theme… For snowclone collector Mark Peters, the phrasal template "X is the Y of Z" is the gift that just keeps on giving. We noted in December that Mark had launched a blog entirely devoted to the snowclone, aptly titled "The Rosa Parks of Blogs." Since then, Mark has enterprisingly spun off the blog into a regular weekly feature for JamsBio Magazine. In each installment, the Y in "X is the Y of Z" stands for the name of a prominent artist from the world of popular music.

Here's a sampling:


  1. Lazar said,

    April 4, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

    Do we have a way of referring to the subset of these snowclones in which there already is a Y of Z, and X is not it? I once read an article on hominid locomotion in which a biologist suggested that humans (with their relative slowness but exceptional endurance compared to other land predators) were "the tortoises of the animal kingdom". To which I immediately screamed at the computer, "No! Tortoises are the tortoises of the animal kingdom!"

  2. mollymooly said,

    April 4, 2009 @ 5:40 pm


    Do we have a way of referring to the subset of these snowclones in which there already is a Y of Z, and X is not it?

    Not quite what you had in mind, but Douglas Hofstadter has contended that "Gary, Indiana is the East St Louis of Illinois", even though East St Louis is in Illinois and Gary is not. This is based on the analogy:-

    State –> largest_city –> rusting_suburb_east_across_state_line

    Illinois –> Chicago –> Gary

    Missouri –> St Louis –> East St Louis

  3. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    April 4, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

    As I noted in an earlier post, a relevant work by Douglas Hofstadter is "Analogies and Roles in Human and Machine Thinking" (Sci. Am., Sep. 1981, reprinted in Metamagical Themas, 1985). Among other things, he considers what it means to call Denis Thatcher "the Nancy Reagan of Britain." (I don't think he uses the Gary example in that essay, though.)

  4. Janice Huth Byer said,

    April 4, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

    Stephen Colbert's quip, "Oregon is California's Canada" I believe qualifies as a snowclone. In the anecdote linked below, he jokingly claims to have checked Wiki to learn whether he called it that or Washington's Mexico, then concedes Oregon could just as easily be Idaho's Portugal.


  5. Lazar said,

    April 4, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

    @Janice: I think West Virginia is Virginia's Pakistan. They both even have that southwest-to-northeast orientation.

  6. mollymooly said,

    April 5, 2009 @ 4:32 am

    @Ben Zimmer:

    I'm pretty sure the Gary example is from "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies".

  7. Aaron Davies said,

    April 5, 2009 @ 11:14 am

    @lazar, the canonical example of that is probably "the cadillac of cars", variously found in bad writer anecdotes and blonde jokes

    @janice, who was it that talked about the hierarchy of canadas? quebec is canada's canada, celine dion is quebec's canada, celine dion's spleen is celine dion's canada, etc.

  8. Carol said,

    April 5, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

    "Wagner is the Puccini of music." J.B. Morton ("Beachcomber")

  9. neminem said,

    April 5, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    My personal favorite? As written on some random bathroom wall: "The Americans are the Nazis of the 20th century!"

    And then below it, written by someone else, "The Nazis are the Nazis of the 20th century, dumbass."

  10. Merri said,

    April 10, 2009 @ 9:11 am

    Perhaps willingness to be ironic has occulted that there is more than geography and straight lines in the original quotation about Oregon. Oregon is felt by (some) Californians as Canada is by most Americans : a colder, less populated, semi-wild, and less anxiogenic place. Surely there is less in commun between Oregon and Mexico (or Portugal, by the way), even seen from Seattle.

    Let's rationalize a bit :
    1. Template 'X is the Y of Z' is fully justified when there is a genuine strong analogy of the kind 'X is to Z as Y is to us' (or 'to most people').
    2. It is less appropriate when 'us' has to be replaced by some other referent, like in the Portugal example, if only because it's less clear.

    And that's probably what makes some of us uncomfortable about the Gary example.

  11. Ingeborg Norden said,

    October 3, 2011 @ 2:24 am

    I'd suggest "slopclone" for the misguided-analogy snowclones, since they arise from sloppy thinking…people forget that there already IS a Mozart of music, a Cadillac of cars, and so on.

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