The family of Word Inclusion snowclones

Keep X In AXB, Put X (Back) In(to) AXB, Take X Out of AXB

(where X is a word included in a larger word AXB — included in pronunciation (exactly or approximately) or spelling or both)

I’ll start with one of the most complicated examples, the seasonally apropos slogan with KEEP:

(#1) An outdoor vinyl banner from

then go on to a seasonal example with TAKE, and end with the great mass of examples, with PUT.

Christ in Christmas. The most straightforward reading of the slogan in #1 isn’t about words at all: a good and faithful Christian should treat the holiday of Christmas (under whatever name) as a religious one, celebrating the birth of Jesus (under whatever name) and its meaning for humankind. It’s a call to reject the secular holidays also called Christmas, in favor of religious observance.

This earnest exhortation is complicated by the Christian tendency to appropriate all sorts of cultural practices as its own, to incorporate them as auxiliaries to specifically Christian practices. So it is that celebrations of winter and secular practices of family gatherings and gift-giving have often been reinterpreted as Christian: Christmas trees, snow celebrations, log-burning, Santa Claus, Christmas dinners, Christmas gift-giving, and more, all absorbed and treated as Christian, whatever their history. So we get the KEEP slogan in conjunction with snowflakes (with no hint of the Nativity):

(#2) A “religious t-shirt” from

Then there are  complications that actually have to do with language. To start with, the question of inclusion: orthographically, CHRIST is in CHRISTMAS, exactly; but phonologically, /krajst/ is only approximately in /krɪsmǝs/ (roughly in the way that /brek/ is in /brɛkfǝst/).  But why should any of this be relevant? (Will someone tell us to keep the break in breakfast, insisting that we should smash things during our morning meal?)

It’s relevant if you want to lay claim to the word CHRISTMAS /krɪsmǝs/ as the name of the Christian religious holiday and only that. To do this is to fall into the Etymological Fallacy, that the origin of the name (incorporating a reference to Jesus Christ) determines what the name means — or should mean, or must mean — now. That is, you must refer to the late December holiday as Christmas, and in doing so you are expressing specific Christian beliefs. Exhorting people to keep (the) Christ in Christmas speaks to the second of these; rejecting alternative names speaks to the first.

So we get Christian hostility to Happy Holidays (rather than Merry Christmas) as a seasonal greeting, and even to use of the spelling XMAS (with its X derived from the Greek for ‘Christ’) instead of CHRISTMAS.

The KEEP Word Inclusion snowclone clothes what is really an exhortation about beliefs and practices as an exhortation about the use of words, so it’s a prime example of what Geoff Pullum has called linguification. From one of a series of his postings on Language, the 7/3/06 posting “Linguifying”:

To linguify a claim about things in the world is to take that claim and construct from it an entirely different claim that makes reference to the words or other linguistic items used to talk about those things, and then use the latter claim in a context where the former would be appropriate.

(Geoff’s main theme in his postings on linguifying, or linguification, is bafflement as to why people do it at all.)

Now, most occurrences of the Word Inclusion snowclone aren’t linguification, but a kind of word play, usually aimed at either exalting or tearing down something (most often, someone), as in the bragging PUT example “I put the “penis” in “happiness” or its deflative counterpart “He really puts the “penis” in “happiness” (conveying that he’s a dick).

Some of these have KEEP variants, as here:

I keep the “penis” in “happiness.” (Twitter posting from Novelty Account 4/5/14)

Holiday Word Inclusion with TAKE. It began with a John McIntyre Facebook posting of the 21st:

At the desk, I, too, find tinsel distracting.

To which one commenter exclaimed


(referring to the  December 23rd holiday inspired by the tv program Seinfeld; see my 12/21/18 posting “22-festoon!”).

Setting off some Festivus-inspired comments, among them:

[from John’s daughter Alice:] The “rest of us” celebrate on the actual holiday — the 23rd.

[from another commenter:] What your daughter is trying to tell you, Prof. McIntyre, is you’re taking the Fest out of Festivus.

Some examples with fun rather than fest:

Taking the fun out of fun-ding (link)

Cold and rainy certainly takes the “fun” out of “fun run”. (link)

“He [Rudolph Giuliani] took the fun out of ‘Fun City.’ (link)

I was hoping to find some snarky examples like “He really takes the fun out of fundamentalism”, but no such luck.

(My own, non-Festivus-related, contribution to John McIntyre’s tinsel comment: “Try draping it over your ears. At least that keeps it out of your eyes.”)

Word Inclusion with PUT. This is the gold mine. Start with the Zippy from 6/19/18:


Then some discussion on Language Log and this blog:

— from GP on Llog, 1/25/04, “When did you first hear this pattern?”, on the snowclone pattern

  the X  that put the  Y  in(to)  Z

— from ML on LLog, 3/19/04, “Putting the X in Y”, with a large collection of examples

— from ML on LLog, 10/2/11, “Putting the X in AXB”, with more examples, especially in jokes

— on this blog on 4/7/16, “Taste days”, a Zippy with “put the F in the T” at Tastee-Freez

Discussions crop up in other sites from time to time. From the AskReddit site, posted by a contributor 8 years ago, answering “What is the funniest “I put the blank in blank” line you have ever heard?”:

I put the penis in happiness.

I put the B in subtle

I put the sexy in dyslexia

I put the sensual in nonconsensual

I put the semen in amusement

I put the laughter in manslaughter

I put the eek in geek

They put the mental in fundamentalist

I put the k in education

We put the no in innovation [in commercial for Post Shredded Wheat]

I put the dick back in Dixie, and the cunt into country

(A mixture of orthographically based and phonologically based examples)

And from an entry on the TV Tropes site on: You Put the “X” in “XY”:

At some point in one’s life, they will come across many different people with views, thoughts, and beliefs than their own, especially if they live in a universe where there are aliens, monsters, fairies, demons, vampires, or what have you co-existing with humans; in fact, it doesn’t even have to be beings from a different species in order for you come across someone different, considering that each and every human is unique.

As a result, that person will come across someone he/she loathes with absolute intensity (i.e. The Rival, Alpha Bitch, Big Bad, Anti-Hero, etc.) or someone he/she loves/admires so much that they’d sacrifice anything just to please them (i.e. Big Brother Mentor, Love Interest, etc.). But how do they go about describing this person they hate/like? Not any old compliment/insult will do.

Therefore, the person must describe them as the epitome of the trait that they loathe/admire. Thus, they say “Bob, you put the X in XY”, Y being a word somewhat relevant to the context and X being a compliment or an insult phonetically contained within it, e.g. “Bob, you truly put the Ass in Ambassador.”

[some film examples:]

Muppet Treasure Island: the motto of Rizzo’s cruise company is “we put the ‘rat’ in ‘pirate’.”

Used in Not Another Teen Movie.”You put the “suck” in “liposuction.” You put the “eww” in “jiu-jitsu.” You put the “ism” in “this is all just a defense mechanism!”

Bring It On: Carver: She puts the “ass” in “massive”. Darcy: You put the “lewd” in “deluded”. Whitney: She puts the “itch” in “bitch”. Courtney: She puts the “whore” in “horrible” [obviously with [ɔ]].

The Wizard of Oz: The Cowardly Lion sings about courage putting “the ‘ape’ in ‘apricot'”.

(Again, a mixture of orthographic and phonological examples.)

And on Quora, in answer to: What are some funny examples of “I put the X in XYZ”? — tons of examples, among them:

I put the imp in pimp [Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones]

I put the wed in screwed [Ross Geller in Friends]

I put the sin in singer [Nicki Minaj]

The IOC [International Olympic Committee], putting the admin in badminton

I put the idol in suicidal [Kurt Cobain]

Rube Goldberg based an entire comic strip based on this premise called “I’m the Guy.” For example, he would show a guy in the middle of a World War I trench warfare scene with bombs exploding all around, reciting a poem. The man would see the ubiquitous little guy and ask “Who are you”?  the guy would respond, “I’m the guy who put the bard in bombardment.” Goldberg had the guy put the wait in waiter, the gin in ginger, the con in Congress, and so on.

Putting the anguish in language.

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