July 14, 2007

Negative is the new positive

In Mr. Toad's world, good has snowcloned to bad, and Zippy responds with an instance of the snowclone Are We X Yet?:

The models for Are We X Yet? include at least the child's querulous "Are we there yet?" and the question "Are we having fun yet?" (used as a simple catchphrase in a Zippy cartoon I blogged about here).  "Are We There Yet?" is a 2005 comedy movie; there's a 2007 sequel "Are We Done Yet?"  And you can google up "Are we finished / happy / safe / safer / intimidating / dead / winning / aware / automated / overachieved / paranoid / paranoid enough / scared / doomed / dysfunctional yet?" (these just from the first 50 Google webhits I got).  Some of these might be intended literally, with no allusion to the formula, but many strike me as allusive.

You can also find occurrences of the formula with now rather than yet -- lots of "Are we having fun now?", and some with elaborations on the X slot, as in "So, here's the thing: are we middle-aged now?" (Ann Burlingham, on the newsgroup soc.motss, 1/21/05), which asks the question about middle age but also plays on the formula.

[Added 7/15/07: I see that Zippy used "Am I empathetic yet?" in a cartoon I posted a while back: a play on "Misery loves company".]

As for The New Y, it made it into the Snowclones Database on 7/1/07.  We've blogged about it many times on Language Log since 2003; my last posting on the snowclone was on 1/18/07, but people send me fresh sightings every so often.

That posting had a diagram put together by Randall Szott at Leisure Arts, showing instances of the snowclone collected during 2005.  John Emerson noted immediately that the Leisure Arts sample had plenty of "X is the new black", but you could google up a fair number of "black is the new Y" (for Y = pink, green, blue, blonde, white, yellow, gay, Jewish,... -- that is, with black taken to be either a simple color name or else a social group identifier), so that a more complete chart would have arrowheads at both ends of some of its lines.

But of course the diagram wasn't intended to be an account of all the occurrences of The New Y out there.  It would be insane to try to inventory them all, since new ones are created every day.  The figure is all over the place; it might well be the most common technique these days for drawing a vivid analogy between earlier Y and current X.  The figure does require the reader or listener to do some serious interpretive work, by finding the appropriate context for comparing X and Y -- unless, of course, the context is made explicit, as in a couple of the examples below (marked with an X for explicitness).

Vegetarian is the New Prius  (1/20/07 column here; thanks to Paul Handford)

For bears, 30 is the new 90.  ("Reported Elsewhere" column here; thanks to Bill Poser, 1/22/07)

How wasabi became the new black, and other tales from the color industry.  (subhead for "Made in the shade", by Eric Konisberg, New Yorker 1/22/07, p. 42)

Internet video is the new baby kissing  (NPR's Morning Edition 1/23/07, referring to presidential candidates conducting press conferences via the web; thanks to Evan Bradley)

Manorexia is the new pink  (head for Darren Franich opinion column, Stanford Daily 1/30/07, p. 4)

Why art is -- and is not -- the new fashion  ("Style" column head, NYT Magazine 2/25/07, p. 71)

[X] [Video of Klan leader: Illegal immigrants is bringing us far more members that we did when we were just totally against any ethnic group.]
Comedian Lewis Black: That's right! When it comes to hate, Mexican really is the new Black!  (Daily Show 2/28/07; thanks to Karen Davis)
[X] ... insisted Adam Michnik, the Polish writer, "Poland is the new Spain, absolutely." He continued: "Spain was a poor country when it joined the European Union 21 years ago.  It no longer is.  We will see the same results in Poland."  (Roger Cohen, "For Europe, A Moment To Ponder", NYT Week in Review 3/25/07, p. 1)

The finest general study to date of the freshwater-supply crisis in Florida.  Drinking water is the new oil.  Get used to it.  (blurb by Michael Gannon, Univ. of Florida, for Cynthia Barnett's Mirage, NYRB 5/10/07, p. 2)

With Republicans in revolt over the surge and losing patience, and Bushies worried... that "July has become the new September," the president decided to do a p.r. surge...  (Maureen Dowd, "History As An Alibi", NYT 7/11/07, p. A23)

And then, for true enthusiasts of The New Y (and American popular culture), a comedy routine by Rev. Mitcz, available on YouTube (hat tip to Eric Baković), with a dozen X Is The New Ys in sequence, all with at least some explanation:

iPod : Walkman
George Bush : Richard Nixon
SUVs : minivans
high class call girls (doing oral) : Fabergé eggs
babies : over-hyped Prada bags
Pat Robertson : Jerry Falwell
Scientologists : Mormons
emo devil's lock haircut : big Heavy Metal hair
emo : goth
straight-edge : out-of-control coke addict
butt implants : boob implants
throat fucking : rough anal

Remember: Rev. Mitcz said it; I didn't.

This closes out my accumulated The New Y files.  I posted because of the Zippy cartoon, with its trio of examples of the form "opposite-of-X is the new X" (for positive X), which I took to be notable.  Now I'd like to take a vacation from this ubiquitous figure.

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at July 14, 2007 02:19 PM