In Sunday's "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine, I use the recent discussion in Congress about "Cadillac health plans" as a news hook to consider the transferred usage of Cadillac in general. Most prominent is the phrase "the Cadillac of X" to refer to "the highest quality of (something)" (predated by the similar formation "the Rolls-Royce of X"). Around these parts, this is of course known as a snowclone, but space did not permit a discussion of the expression's snowclonosity (beyond referring to it as a "sturdy phrasal template").
"The Cadillac of X" and "the Rolls-Royce of X" are instances of a more generic snowclone, "X is the Y of Z," which we've discussed on several occasions:
- "X as the Y of Z" (July 28, 2006)
- "X as the Y of Z, again" (March 25, 2008)
- "Obama is the Y of Z" (Nov. 5, 2008)
- "The Rosa Parks of Blogs" (Dec. 20, 2008)
- "X is the Y of Z: pop music edition" (Apr. 4, 2009)
The last two posts describe snowclone-centric endeavors by Mark Peters: The Rosa Parks of Blogs and his running series for JamsBio Magazine, "X is the Y of Z." I asked Mark for his thoughts on the Cadillac snowclone, which has persisted long after Cadillacs themselves have lost their iconic prestige:
Snowclones may stay close to their original source at first, but if they catch on, the examples get wilder and woolier. "The Cadillac of trucks" is predictable and not-so-exciting, and "The Cadillac of lawnmowers" is a little further out there, but this snowclone has probably gone on many off-road excursions. I don't know if a doctor would recommend these medical examples or not: "The Cadillac of pain medication" and "The Cadillac of clot inhibitors". Here's a good question: What is the Cadillac of snowclones?
For further Cadillac talk, specifically in the context of baseball, see my latest Word Routes column on the Visual Thesaurus, "It's Cadillac Time!"