Someday, a Bill Will Pass

Speakers and writers use all sorts of stock items — words, idioms, clichés, proverbs, quotations, snowclones, common collocations, morphological patterns, syntactic constructions, and more — stuff “pulled off the shelf”. But they also play with this material, in many ways, all the time. As in the headline “Someday, a Bill Will Pass” on a Gail Collins op-ed piece about a bill to reform the student loan program, now being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives (in the NYT on September 17).

The head is a playful allusion to the song title  “Someday, My Prince Will Come”, originally from the 1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, since recorded in many different versions. (The title appears in several variants: with initial Someday or — an older spelling — Some Day, with or without a comma following that expression.)

What’s carried over from the song title is the template

(T) Someday, NP will V

Now, you can understand the headline (and other instances of (T)) perfectly well even if you don’t catch the echo of the song. But what the allusion to the song contributes is the emotion of wishful longing in the Snow White original.

(T) isn’t a snowclone, at least yet. It isn’t a conventionalized pattern conveying wishful longing; instead, hearers and readers have to work out this connotation for themselves. (Over the years I’ve posted on Language Log several times about distinguishing playful allusions from snowclones: here, herehere, and here, for instance.)

No doubt, connecting the headline to the song title is facilitated by their having the same prosody. “Someday, a Student Loan Reform Bill Will Be Passed in the House” really wouldn’t work as well.

4 Responses to “Someday, a Bill Will Pass”

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