Language Log likes to talk about snowclones. In fact, they popularized the term “snowclone” (though they did not coin it, as you can see by the entry).
Here’s one I don’t think they’ve looked at, even though they have used it, which has an intriguing distribution:
You are in a maze of twisty little X, all alike.
In the original phrase, the X slot was filled by ‘passages’. It’s from the text adventure game Colossal Cave Adventure, and while it’s clear that this phrase is a full-blown snowclone (anything can fill the X slot, though the rest of the phrase is mostly still fixed), it’s one with limited distribution: the main usages are clearly computer-related or otherwise nerdy (or geeky if you prefer).
(I know the phrase, but I’m actually not familiar with Colossal Cave or similar games as such. I actually thought the passageways line was from Zork, but the Google Meme Observatory corrected me. Shows what I know! The computer games that I played when I was younger all had graphics, albeit simple ones like flat green buffaloes and pink H’s surrounded by green blocks.)
Here are 22 interestingly representative examples of the snowclone:
You are in a maze of twisty little paragraphs, all alike.
You are in a maze of twisty little injokes, all alike…
You are in a maze of twisty little corporations, all alike…
â€œYou are in a maze of twisty little emoticons, all alike.â€
In the limiting case, just because I install a Python parser, it shouldn’t force other modules into a maze of twisty little whitespace, all alike.
code that seems to be a maze of twisty little bitShifts, all alike, follows.
You are in a maze of twisty little tabs, all alike.
A maze of twisty little standards, all alike
You are in a maze of twisty little weblogs all alike.
You are in a maze of twisty little classes, all alike.
You are in a maze of twisty little menus, all alike.
You are in a maze of twisty little boxes, all alike
You are in a little twisty maze of think-tanks, all different.
You are lost in a maze of twisty little filesystems, all alike….
You are in a maze of twisty subroutines, all alike. You may be eaten by a deadline.
You are in a maze of twisty little APIs, all alikeâ€¦
Anyone who’s worked in a maze of twisty little cubicles (all alike) will be able to relate to the situations presented here.
When considering the rules mentioned above, plus some other rules about tax-treatment on pre-IPO stock options, the whole mess might be paraphrased as: “You are in a maze of twisty little rules, all alike.”
you are in a maze of twisty little header files, all alike…
You are in a maze of twisty little accounts, all alike (2007/3/30)
You are in a maze of twisty little config files, all alike
A maze of twisty little railroads, all alike
You are in a maze of twisty little offsets, all alike
And for the final touch, a link to Language Hat!
I live in a part of Berkeley build up in the 1920s, which for drivers is a maze of twisty little streets, all alike.
(Sadly, Mr. Language Hat did not use it, just one of the commenters.)
The variations show that the phrase is either a tad flexible, or difficult to remember with perfect accuracy. And indeed the wiki page explains that there were both a maze of passageways all alike, and one of passageways all different, which was described in several variant ways.
I’m rather fond of this snowclone. I think my favorite is the “maze of twisty little whitespace all alike”, but that’s just because I hate Python.