All the Y of a Z

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Snowclone mavens often have trouble deciding whether some pattern is sufficiently fixed to count as a snowclone, or whether it's just an option the syntax of the language makes available. I don't think there's an easy answer.

Case in point: X REQUIRES ALL THE Y OF A Z. As in this quotation from Gail Collins in the NYT of 2 April, p. A27:

He is the longtime minority leader of the [New York] State Assembly, a job that requires all the quick-thinking and decision-making capacity of a fishing warden in the Gobi Desert.

(That is, Z requires no real Y, so X requires no significant Y, either: being a fishing warden in the Gobi Desert requires no real quick-thinking or decision-making capacity, so being minority leader of the Assembly doesn't either.)

With a little ingenuity, you can google up more examples (and others with verbs similar to require, like take or demand). But the question is: do such examples get their effect straightforwardly from the syntax of English (admittedly, with figurative language plugged in), or is there some short-circuiting from a complex figure to a conveyed meaning?

I just don't know, and I don't think there's any easy way to decide in particular instances, short of finding some way to get inside people's heads. The best we can do is flag some possible cases for investigation — while being open to the possibility that the status of the expression is different for different people. After all, even X IS THE NEW Y (now so omnipresent that I stopped collecting instances of it long ago) started as a fresh figure, a genuine invention.

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