January 15, 2004

Phrases for Lazy Writers in Kit Form Are the New Clichés

Glen Whitman at Agoraphilia has picked up Geoff Pullum's idea about "phrases for lazy writers in kit form" and run with it, citing the phrasal template "X is the new Y."

Glen quotes grey is the new black, butt crack is the new cleavage, Dean is the new McCain, and 16 others found in a quick Google search. He provides links to citations, and divides the examples into categories, suggesting that the pattern started in fashion-talk but has moved as far afield as astronomy. Continuing his search, I started to look for all the new things that Dean is, and discovered that Slate magazine already published an illustrated catalogue of instantiations of this phrasal template back in August. Checking out the whole phrase "X is the new Y", I learned that 45 other people have already gone explicitly meta on this one, including Warren Clements in the Globe and Mail back in December, Time Magazine in its cover story of September 8, 2003, and an anonymous writer at artforum.com back in March of 2001, who suggests that the real estate business was an early source.

I tried to discover whether Juvenal had complained about over-use of the Latin form of this pattern in the first century A.D., but the Perseus Digital Library "is unavailable from 5:00 to 7:00, US Eastern time, in order to rebuild its databases with new or changed meta-data." Sorry.

Posted by Mark Liberman at January 15, 2004 06:54 AM