Are snowclones common in Japanese?

A snowclone is a neologism for a type of cliché and phrasal template originally defined as "a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different variants".

An example of a snowclone is "grey is the new black", a version of the template "X is the new Y". X and Y may be replaced with different words or phrases – for example, "comedy is the new rock 'n' roll". The term "snowclone" can be applied to both the original phrase and to any new phrase that uses its formula. Many Internet memes are snowclones: for example, the meme "obvious troll is obvious" has been generalized to many other statements of the form "X Y is X".

If I use snowclones myself, am I likely to be understood (all other things being equal), or will it just cause confusion?

EDIT: To expand a bit on the definition given above, a snowclone is a phrase pattern cliche. Unlike most cliches which use the same words every time, a snowclone is a cliche whose parts can be replaced to make a new (but recognizable) cliche. The term was requested, and eventually coined mainly for terms journalists use.

"X is the new Y" is a comment on fads/fashions, indicating that "everyone who was excited/worried about X is excited about Y now", regardless of what domain X and Y are in. (It's not limited to pop culture, I've heard "Portugal is the new Greece" in reference to the EU's economic issues)

  • i think they exist although they might not correspond directly to an Englsih equivalent
    – Tim
    Oct 17, 2012 at 14:38
  • 1
    I did not know this term, and I have trouble understanding what it really means. It seems that “X as the Y of Z” is an example of a snowclone. How is this different from “from A to B”? Or is the latter another snowclone? Oct 17, 2012 at 22:24
  • Thanks for the added explanation of the meaning. I think that my confusion comes from my uncertainty about when a phrase is called a cliché and when it is not. It seems to me that people call a phrase a cliché when they think that it is used too often, but that is very subjective and does not look like a meaningful distinction. Oct 18, 2012 at 14:27
  • I'm not entirely convinced it's possible for an individual to use a snowclone, to be honest. Rereading the coining of the term, it looks like a description for something journalists do. When an individual does it, the examples given would be more appropriately called "following a meme".
    – jkerian
    Oct 18, 2012 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


Caveat emptor: My sphere of knowledge is biased towards internet slangs.

The phenomenon of snowcloning is common in Japanese, while the term itself is not widely known.

  • 能登かわいいよ能登 -> XかわいいよX (The original phrase made it into a slang dictionary published in 2007)
  • 見ろ! 人がゴミのようだ! -> 見ろ! XがYのようだ! (With Y being ゴミ in most cases)
  • パンが無いならお菓子を食べればいいじゃない -> XがYならZすればいいじゃない
  • 鳴かぬなら鳴かせてみせようホトトギス -> XならX/Yしてみせよう/しまえZ

I can't readily come up with phrases used in journalism though. (Maybe not enough exposure.)

Nitpicky sidenote: By definition, snowclones are "instantly recognizable". As long as the other person recognizes the phrase structure, the fact that you just swapped some variables will not be confusing. If you're unsure that the phrase structure will be recognized, you can mark that it's a reference to a cliché by using "いわゆる": いわゆる[your snowclone phrase here]ってやつですね。

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