Pullum Xhani and Snowclone

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A bit of silliness as the U.S. Revolutionary holiday winds down.

Facebook just suggested to me that I might want to friend Pullum Xhani. I was, of course, intrigued by the name, but found nothing illuminating in what Pullum Xhani was willing to provide on his page — nothing but name, sex, and a photo of anime characters. Pursuing things a bit further, I seem to have discovered that the name is Albanian, with Xhani being a reasonably commonly Albanian family name (well, in the top 100, though just barely) and that Pullum is an Albanian personal name. Geoff take note. (I say "seem to have discovered" because the pages I pulled up were all in Albanian, and though Albanian is an Indo-European language it's about as opaque to me as Mongolian or Aymara. So I could easily have misunderstood things.)

Meanwhile, over on my blog, I suggested some names-and-music games, including a search for names of musical groups, albums, or songs that incorporate linguistic or language-related terms (not the phenomena, the terminology), in particular, tracks that I could in principle get for my iTunes (where I put odd playlists together). The song titles "Oxford Comma", "Metaphor", and "Labio Dental Fricative", for instance.

By this route I discovered that there is not one, but at least two, performance entities (groups or individual people) named Snowclone. One is a Finnish duo, and I've gotten their most recent album, Blunder of the First Water. The other — probably the one referred to by the commenter who mentioned Snowclone in the first place — is a guy in Bend OR who does hiphop, whose site even has a definition of snowclone on it. But I haven't yet figured out how to get a sample of his music.

[Clarifications added 7/5: It's taken a while to piece this together, but the Bend OR connection seems to be to the SnowClone Music and Retail Festivals there, with their connection to snowboarding. The MySpace page for SnowClone Presents is where the music comes from, and that gets us to hip-hop artist Wale in D.C. and the waledance mp3 that commenter mgh links to. But there's no hip-hop artist Snowclone, so this is a red herring. The Finnish duo is a proper find, though.

On the status of the word pullum in Albanian, see Geoff's follow-up to this posting.

This is what I get for trying to assemble a silly little posting in less than an hour, instead of taking a whole morning, afternoon, or evening to do it right.]


  1. Ray Girvan said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

    AZ: I haven't yet figured out how to get a sample of his music

    The track that autoplays on his MySpace page seems to be one.

    [(amz) Yeah, I found that before, so I can listen to this one track, but I haven't yet figured out how to download it (even for a small fee).]

  2. Stan Carey said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

    It's a stretch, but if either Snowclone uses a digital bass, they could call it a Snowclone data bass.

    Last year when I was looking up stamina in the Shorter OED, I stumbled upon the pleasingly eponymous Stancarist. It describes followers of Francesco Stancari, a 16th-Century Italian theologian "who taught that the atonement of Christ was attributable to his human nature as opposed to his divine origin". So I'll have to look further afield if I start a cult.

  3. Neil said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    Might I also suggest for another good linguistic filled song: "The Hit Song" by DJ Format featuring Abs (Youtube version)

  4. mgh said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

    the snowclone myspace page track is "WALEDANCE, Wale and Justice" :


  5. language hat said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

    Pullum is an Albanian personal name

    Are you sure? I can't find any reference to it; the closest is Pëllumb (meaning 'dove').

  6. JLR said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 6:11 pm

    Strangely, I found "Pullum Xhani" on my Facebook suggester yesterday as well.

  7. Tim said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

    If your language-related song titles list does not already include it : "I Palindrome I" by They Might Be Giants (on the album Apollo 18).

    [(amz) Got it, in the Terminology list, from the compilation Dial-A-Song.]

  8. Ray Girvan said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

    amz: I haven't yet figured out how to download it

    At least on my system, mouseover on the cassette image opens the RealPlayer download tab. The skipforward button on the cassette finds a second track.

    [(amz) Well, it now looks like a red herring, as I explain in a clarification note to the original posting.]

  9. Christine said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

    Off the top of my head, there are the bands The Phonemes and Bound Stems.

  10. Chas Belov said,

    July 6, 2010 @ 1:53 am

    Oddly, the song Labiodental Fricative (by the Bonzo Dog Band) seems to be primarily composed of alliterative lines in which none of the alliterative sounds are labiodental fricatives, e.g. "Cannibal chiefs chew Camembert cheese 'cause chewing makes them cheeky."

    More language titles:
    The Word by The Beatles
    and if you really want to stretch it
    The Letter by The Box Tops (sorry, I couldn't resist)

  11. Jay Lake said,

    July 6, 2010 @ 8:10 am

    Funny you should mention Albanian and Mongolian in the same sentence. My father speaks both, having served as US ambassador to both countries during his diplomatic career.

  12. Aaron Davies said,

    July 7, 2010 @ 7:34 am

    My girlfriend's band is called Lady Mondegreen. They mostly do filk; I can't think of anything lingustics-related in their repertoire off the top of my head, unless of course you count “The Bonny Earl O'Moray” itself.

  13. Lane said,

    July 7, 2010 @ 11:54 am

    My quick guess is that "Blunder of the First Water", sounds like a near-eggcorn (if we could come up with a plausible explanation for it – "we screwed up at the very first river we tried to cross", or something like that?), not a snowclone.

  14. Zwicky Arnold said,

    July 7, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

    To Lane: On their website, Snowclone explain(s) their name and the name of the album:

    What does "Snowclone" mean?

    Even though we're in Finland, no, it's not about cloning snow. This is what Wikipedia has to say:

    A snowclone is a type of formula-based cliché that uses an old idiom in a new context. It is a special case of phrasal templates. It was originally defined as "a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different jokey variants by lazy journalists and writers."

    The idea behind the name is that just like snowclones, also pop music consists of recognizable, occasionally even clichéd elements that are put together in new ways. At the same time, the parts of the name have a Finnish spirit – cool climate and advanced technology.

    What about "Blunder of the First Water"?

    It means roughly a 'first-class mistake'. It would be more common to say "of the first order", but the name also includes the notion of the expression "diamond of the first water" used to refer to the best (brightest) diamonds.

    In addition to sounding interesting and not too commonplace, the choice was motivated by sheer self-irony. At the same time, it's also rather suitable for a band's first release.


    So: "Blunder of the First Water" (an expression not by any means original to Snowclone) isn't intended as a snowclone, nor is it an eggcorn (or any other sort of error).

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