going better with

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?

Coke? I quickly googled up lots of instances of GBW. A few examples from this search:

Nothing goes better with baseball than peanuts!

Nothing Goes Better With a Cup of Coffee Than Therapy

Nothing goes better with a Laska’s pizza than a bottle of Southern Tier Pumking [a beer]!

Nothing goes better with cheese than wine!

Nothing goes better with beer than a good story.

Nothing goes better with cookies than milk.

Pizza and beer figure prominently in the list, but Coke is very frequent, in both forms:

Nothing goes better with X than (a) Coke.

Nothing goes better with (a) Coke than X.

My favorite here is this slur on Italian-Americans:

For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the best Guido meal is a slice and a Coke… Nothing goes better with a slice than a Coke. (Wiktionary on slice)

As far as I can see, Coke gets into it not through a direct use of GBW in its advertising, but through its use of the slogan

Things go better with Coke.

in the U.S. in 1963, and elsewhere and at other times as well. GBW is an amplification of this.

Two more examples: first, a double-header, with a snowclone-like lead-in followed up by GBW:

Nothing says summer like a delicious Picnic Pasta Salad, and nothing goes better with Picnic Pasta Salad than a perfectly grilled hot dog. (link)

“Nothing says A like B” followed up by GBW.

And then a deightful American Egg Board PSA starring Kevin Bacon: “Nothing goes better with eggs than a side of Kevin Bacon”.

Playful allusions. One step up from weakly conventionalized expressions. From a LLog posting of mine from 9/23/07, “On the fringes of Snowclonia”:

Chris Phipps asked me about “unsafe P any X”, as in the title of a posting by Mark Liberman: “Journalists’ questions: unsafe in any mood?”. This, I replied, was just a playful allusion to Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, and pretty much a one-shot deal at that: there’s no significant collection of variations on the title, a collection that would suggest that there’s a pattern available for general use here.   Similarly in my use of the title “A child’s garden of languages” for a recent posting; the title takes off on Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Over the years I’ve posted several times about occasions on which all sorts of language play are prominent (in science writing, in teaser headings on the covers of porn magazines) [in various “ludic locales”] … my current point is that among the types of language play to be found in them are playful allusions, lots of them, and no one should want to label most of these as snowclones, since virtually any idiom, cliché, quotation, or title can serve as the basis for an allusion. Many of them combine some other feature of language play with the playful allusion, as in these two examples, where there’s some phonological play: “Ground Control to My Imam” (feature title in Harper’s, November 2006), alluding to David Bowie’s “Ground Control to Major Tom”; and “Take the Money and Rue” (NYT editorial, 9/12/07), alluding to Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run.

Then last year Victor Steinbok e-mailed me about  commercials for Pam cooking spray, with an assortment of language play in them:

The … commercial starts with a Dickensian snowclone. “I’m the ghost of foods past,” [on snowclone, see below] then going into portmanteau puns (“foodtasm”), punching out with, “We can also do ‘poultrygeist’ if you use chicken.” [This last a punning variation, a very nice one.]

One example, with a chicken speaking:

Use new Pam Cooking Spray to clean off unwanted residue on your pots and pans or else you may get a visit from the Ghost of Meals Past. Residoodle-doo! (link)

Victor reported several versions of the Dickensian bit: “I am the ghost of cookies past” (with a cookie sheet), “I am the ghost of meals past”, etc.

My response:

“The ghost of foods past” is just a playful allusion or variation (on a familiar quotation, in this case); calling such things “snowclones” completely empties the notion of snowclone of its usefulness. I once spent some time arguing on LLog that playful variations should not be labeled as snowclones (though there is a transitional zone, in which playful variations are becoming fixed, conventionalized into formulas).

Otherwise, there are many millions of “snowclones” in the world, and new ones can be created (are created) every minute. There would then be no point in assembling a Snowclone Database.

The larger issue here is that “snowclone” is a cute and memorable name, so people want to use it very broadly. But that undercuts the original motivation for having a new technical term.

Same with “eggcorn”, which a great many people now want to use as a label for any sort of word error, thereby reducing the term to vacuity. But it’s a cute and memorable label. (On that point, see this eggcorn posting.)

It seems to me the GBW doesn’t even reach the level of playful variation, though it does manage to sound sort of familiar.

One Response to “going better with”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    On Facebook, David Preston adds to “Things go better with Coke”: “Everything’s better with Blue Bonnet on it”; and “Everything tastes great when it sits on a Ritz”.

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