Playful allusion

The world is full of word play based on particular expressions, and some of the literature on snowclones tries to disentangle this phenomenon from snowclones; see the “playful allusion” postings in the inventory here. Every so often I’m tickled by a particular playful allusion, as I was this morning by the first sentence of Noam Cohen’s “Care to Write Army Doctrine? If You Have ID, Log Right On” on the front page of the New York Times:

Join the Army, where you can edit all that you can edit.

What makes this noticeable is, first of all, that it takes some thought to interpret. Next, of course, you have to be familiar with the U.S. Army recruiting slogan “Be all that you can be”. Then you get it.

Without this backing, “X all you can X” might just be understood as a literal exhortation. It’s not entirely clear, for example, whether the following involves any allusion, however distant, to the recruiting slogan:

Join me in Valhalla, drink all that you can drink, eat all that you can eat, and fight all that you can fight! (link)

One Response to “Playful allusion”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    It would be less playful and more pedantic as “…where you may edit all you can edit”.

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