Tuesday September 26, 2006

Where Have You Gone?

Best.  Blog post title.  Ever.  Wish I'd thought of it.

Come to think of it, "Where have you gone, X" looks an awful lot like a snowclone.  I wonder what Google has to say about it?

If we search for the string "Where have you gone" while filtering out "DiMaggio" (the name in the original song), among the resulting 664 kGhits we find:

Where Have You Gone, Stanley Fish?
Where have you gone, Rocketman?
Where have you gone, Air America: the nation hasn't turned its ears to you
    (extra credit for working in the next line)
Where Have You Gone, James Madison?
Where have you gone, Joe Keefe?
Where Have You Gone, Ralph Bunche?
Where have you gone, GI Joe?
Where have you gone, family sedan?
Where have you gone, ABC full episode streaming?
    (straining the meter a bit there, I think)
Where have you gone, Mr. Microphone?
    ("Hey, good-lookin'!  We'll be back to pick you up later!")

This is just the tip of a very, very large iceberg—there are a lot of distinct instances of this phrasal template.  Its semantic content is pretty thin, though.  It doesn't seem to carry any special idiomatic meaning.  Instead, writers seem to use it when they mean simply "Where have you gone?", especially in titles.  This may argue that "Where have you gone, X?" is really just a pop-culture reference rather than a snowclone, since the writers are mostly trading on its familiar sound rather than some special meaning.

If that's true, though, some of them are doing a pretty poor job of it.  In only a few of the uses above do the writers use the phrase with an X that has the same stress pattern as Joe DiMaggioAir America and Mr. Microphone work well, as does the one that got this all started, Chesley Bonestell—still my favorite—but others, like ABC full episode streaming, just fall flat.  Come on, cliché-addicted article titlers, you can do better than that!

[Now playing: "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel]

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
11:42 PM in Linguistics | Submit: | Links:


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Just out of curiosity, I googled "to * or not to *?", which, i think you'll agree is a pretty specific search.
It returned more than 44 million results. I've perused 430 of them but have so far not seen a single reference to "to be or not to be".
If anyone knows a more common snowclone out there, please, let me know.

Posted by: Aidhoss at Oct 3, 2006 10:40:39 PM