The Rosa Parks of Blogs

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Snowclones, those endlessly flexible phrasal templates, have already spawned their own database, launched by Erin O'Connor in March 2007. Now Mark Peters, who has helped bring snowclones to the masses in articles for Psychology Today, the Columbia Journalism Review, and Good, has created an even cozier online niche: a blog devoted to a single snowclone. It's called "The Rosa Parks of Blogs," and as you can guess from the title it's based on the "X is the Y of Z" snowclone, discussed here, here, and here. Mark explains:

Everybody is the Rosa Parks of something—or at least the Michael Phelps, Cap'n Crunch, Dick Cheney, Elmer Fudd, or Paris Hilton of whatever. This blog collects examples of the adaptable idiom "X is the Y of Z", which is a snowclone. Feel free to use these descriptions when discussing your beautiful children, longtime companions, sworn enemies, favorite foods, and elected congressvermin.

So far Mark has already rounded up these examples:

  • The Yoko Ono of Saturday morning cartoons
  • The Dr. Phil of pandas
  • The Larry David of Swedish indie music
  • The Foghorn Leghorn of evolutionary thinkers
  • The Magic Johnson of the Bible
  • The John Donne of pizza writing
  • The Adam and Eve of mathematics
  • The Tori Amos of giant monsters
  • The Clint Eastwood of cows
  • The Barry Bonds of apple crisps
  • The Count Chocula of politics
  • The Abe Vigoda of the super-villain community
  • The Michael Phelps of poop

It really does seem like a bottomless well. Best of luck to Mark in this joyfully absurdist project.

[Update: In the comments, Matt McIrvin directs our attention to a blog known as Poor Man's Version, which, from January 2006 to April 2008, riffed on the snowclone, "X is the poor man's Y."]

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17 Comments »

  1. Sili said,

    December 20, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

    So "X is the Y of Z" is the Kevin Bacon of snowclones?

  2. Sarang said,

    December 20, 2008 @ 5:39 pm

    I'm curious to know how many of these coinages alliterate or fake-alliterate. (4/12 above.) There's something very natural about "The Dr Phil of pandas," or "the Clint Eastwood of cows."

  3. John Lawler said,

    December 20, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

    Long ago, before it was discovered that these were snowclones, I remember assigning a semantics class to create some "X is the Y of Z" constructions. My favorite result from this was "Rolls-Royce is the Cadillac of Automobiles".

  4. Sarang said,

    December 20, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

    Yale is the Harvard of high schools.
    Harvard is the Yale of universities.

  5. Matt McIrvin said,

    December 20, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

    The Poor Man started out as a blog devoted to collecting (and inventing) examples of "X is the poor man's Y".

  6. Lazar said,

    December 20, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

    Recently I was reading a news article about human evolution, and I came across this quote:

    “Humans are terrible athletes in terms of power and speed, but we’re phenomenal at slow and steady. We’re the tortoises of the animal kingdom."

    To which my immediate reaction was, "No! Tortoises are the tortoises of the animal kingdom!" He was referring to the tortoise and hare story, of course, but it just struck me as a very infelicitous thing to say.

  7. Lazar said,

    December 20, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

    Actually, now that I look, a lot of people had the same reaction.

  8. Roger Lustig said,

    December 20, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

    @John Lawler: Verdi is the Puccini of music.

  9. Rubrick said,

    December 21, 2008 @ 2:02 am

    I consider Language Log to be the popsicle of tweezers.

  10. sleepnothavingness said,

    December 21, 2008 @ 7:37 am

    English is the lingua franca of commerce.

  11. Brendan said,

    December 21, 2008 @ 9:36 am

    A friend's Facebook status this summer proclaimed him "the Michael Phelps of specious comparisons."

  12. Chris Waigl said,

    December 21, 2008 @ 9:56 am

    I took a peek at Google results in German, because my feeling was that the structure "X is the Y of Z" was not an English-only snowclone.

    Bingo. It's easy to find "der Goethe des Hiphop" oder "der Shakespeare der
    Rockmusik", but it's getting really iconic with Mozart ("der Elektro-Mukke", "der Theologie", "der Molekülkunst", "des deutschen Arbeitsrechts", "des Kalenders"…). "Der Trüffel ist der Mozart der Pilze" (the truffle is the Mozart of mushrooms) is attributed to Rossini. I didn't check it. He probably spoke Italian.

    The one that takes the biscuit is Mutter Theresa — not only has every ideological movement its Mutter Theresa ("der Anarchie", "der Grünen", "der Islamhasser", "der CDU", "der Männerrechtsbewegung"), but among the first few dozens of Google hits, we have "der Dornschwanzagamen", "des Bierzeltes", "der Finanzwelt", "des Internets" and "der Lebensabschnittspartnerschaftlichen Beziehungsarbeit" (which I would spell with a lowercase l).

  13. Skullturf Q. Beavispants said,

    December 21, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

    On this year's Comedy Central roast of comedian Bob Saget, one of the roasters referred to Norm MacDonald as "the J.D. Salinger of dick jokes".

  14. dr pepper said,

    December 21, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

    Mark Liberman is the John McLaughlin of journal moderators.

  15. Lazar said,

    December 21, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

    Apparently, either VW or Fiat is the Apple of cars.

  16. greg said,

    December 22, 2008 @ 9:04 am

    X is the Y of Z is the lightly falling from a westerly direction until you notice it and it suddenly becomes an overwhelming storm of snowclones

  17. Faldone said,

    December 23, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

    X is the Y of Z is the lightly falling from a westerly direction until you notice it and it suddenly becomes an overwhelming storm of snowclones

    That would have been totally impossible to parse without the context.

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