I recently complained about something being a tired snowclone without explaining what a snowclone is.
You can think of a snowclone as a templatized version of a cliche. It’s a popular turn of phrase, aphorism, or idiom where you pop out some words and replace them with your own.
A classic example is X is the new Y.
Other snowclone examples include:
The concept originates from discussions on Language Log back in 2004. Geoffrey K. Pullum, a linguist, was looking to name the “adaptable cliché frame” used by lazy journalists. The canonical example bothering Pullum was:
If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z.
(Personally, I’m craving a term that describes “phenomena named after the first, or canonical, example.” If it doesn’t already exist, I propose protolog, a portmanteau of proto and logos (Greek for “first” and “word” respectively).)
There are even graphic design snowclones. Remember when “Keep calm and X on” was all the rage?
I was particularly obsessed with the snowclone “I (graphic design element) (thing)” based on “I NY” the logo designed by Milton Glaser in the 1970s. I created a whole damn website devoted to it, but that was a long time ago.