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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Snowclones: ready-made metaphors for abstract relationships

The term snowclone, listed at W and coined at LL, describes cliche formulas into which components can be inserted to make supposedly snappy new phrases.

Examples include "* is my middle name," "Will the real * please stand up?", and "* is the new *."

One follow-up LL entry on "* is the dark matter of *" suggests that snowclones actually help formulate our conception of abstract relationships:

Like other snowclones, 'X is the dark matter of Y' is more than a fixed phrase or cliché. It's a pointer to a little conceptual universe, bringing along with it a metaphorical framework that structures the surrounding chunk of discourse. If 'X is the dark matter of Y', then X is crucial to Y, is even the biggest part of Y, but it is not directly visible, and must be inferred because of the strong effects it has on visible things.

I wonder if these metaphor formulas speak to an inadequacy of vocabulary we have for articulating abstract relationships, or if these cliches actually help predetermine how we perceive or consider an abstract relationship.


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