Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

Nothing says A like B

August 26, 2015

In my “going better with” posting, I mentioned in passing the “snowclone-like” sentence

Nothing says summer like a delicious Picnic Pasta Salad

(of the form “Nothing says A like B”, roughly conveying ‘B is evidence for A, B indicates A’). It certainly feels formulaic, and I considered the possibility that it was a playful variation on some existing model, but the range of examples suggests otherwise; so the form does indeed look snowclone-like: a compact template available for connecting B to A.


going better with

August 25, 2015

Today’s Zits:

Jeremy plays with the template

GBW (GoesBetterWith): Nothing goes better with X than Y

conveying something like ‘X and Y go very well together’; either X or Y can be taken to be the primary component in the combination.

But for Jeremy in the cartoon, X = Y, so what he’s conveying is that X is really really good. More bacon! More bacon!

GBW is a variation on an expression, but an expression that’s only weakly conventionalized: it can straightforwardly be understood literally, but it comes with an air of familiarity. It’s certainly not an snowclone, and it might not even count as a playful variation on some familiar expression. What would the model be?


Search for the magic slogan

August 2, 2015

Today’s Dilbert, with a brainstorming session at the office:

b (#1)

All they need is a magic slogan, in three words, clearly explaining everything the new product does. Labels — names — aren’t good at doing this task, and slogans (which are primarily designed for conveying emotions) are even worse than labels.

And yes, Alice, “Keep Doing It” is in some sense already taken. Several times, probably.


Failure to reach proverbial status

July 25, 2015

A Roz Chast cartoon from the July 27th New Yorker:

Each panel has its subject failing to reach the level required for some piece of formulaic language to apply:

She’s a force of nature.
After he was made, people threw away the mold.
She’s completely irrepressible.

Zippy and the Icon at the Bluebonnet

July 16, 2015

Today’s Zippy, which leads in several directions:


Zippy at the Bluebonnet Diner in Northampton MA, trading warning signs at the counter with an icon representing a (generic) person.

Stuff here: the diner; broasted chicken; warning signs; icons (for a man, for a person); punchline.


I Can’t Even

July 5, 2015

A follow-up to my posting “That goes without”, on an Amanda Hess piece in the NYT Magazine of 6/14, about the (largely) teenage use of “I can’t even” to convey being rendered speechless by strong emotion. Now to the letters section in the magazine for 6/28, which comes with two Tom Gauld cartoons illustrating reader comments.


Thought balloons

June 23, 2015

In the July 2015 Funny Times (p. 10), a cartoon about cartoon conventions, which I’ll have to describe to you rather than show to you (for reasons I’ll explain).

It shows a man standing by a sidewalk in a park, offering balloons for sale. The placard next to him says


And the balloons are labeled:


each supplying a thought.


A thousand likes

June 19, 2015

On Wednesday, a notification from WordPress that I had achieved

a thousand likes

on this blog since it started late in 2008.


Two linguistic comics

June 17, 2015

In my e-mail this morning, two linguistic comics: a One Big Happy and a Mother Goose and Grimm:




Talking wine

June 6, 2015

A cartoon in the latest (June 8th/15th) New Yorker by Jason Adam Katzenstein:


It’s the wine talking is used to confess something you might not have said if you hadn’t drunk some wine. But it’s a formulaic expression, so it can be deployed in other ways, for instance to introduce talk about wine.

In the cartoon, the wine is literally talking.



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