Join.me, the new virtual-meeting service of LogMeIn1, has blanketed the MacArthur BART station in Oakland with text-only ads. You might call it a blizzard, because each ad is a snowclone.2
“X is just so Y,” or the simpler “X is so Y,” shows up millions of times in search results. The expression conveys jaded hipness, or hip jadedness, with an undertone of are-you-still-wearing-THAT? A few examples: Dead Is So Last Year, a novel by Marlene Perez; “Stealing Is So Last Season,” a New York Times headline; “Outrage Over Executives’ Pay Is So Last Quarter” (headline in the Seattle Times); “Twitter Is So Last Week” (headline on a Gartner blog post); “BP’s Oil Spill Is So Last Month” (Geeks Who Drink blog post title).
In Join.me’s case, the specificity of “Q3 2010” heightens the insider-ish quality (Q3 is business jargon) and the humor.
This snowclone—“Every time [an] X Ys, a Z Ns”—originated with the line in It’s a Wonderful Life: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”3 Snowclone variations include “Every Time a Bell Rings, a Communist Gets a Foothold” (Mother Jones headline); “Every Time a Bell Rings, a Volunteer Gets His Wings” (Association Advocacy Chick blog post headline); “Everytime [sic] the Cubs lose, an angel gets their [sic] wings” (Facebook page); and “Every Time a Bell Rings a Wizard Drinks a Shot” (Facebook page). And of course there’s “Every time you watch this Capra classic, an angel gets his wings” (scroll down through the listings to “Big-Screen Evergreens”).
The substitution of fairy for angel struck me as odd, but then I discovered this image at SomeECards:
The intent of this variation is clearly derogatory: “real men” supposedly don’t use smiley faces. Join.me may have been influenced (somewhat perversely) by this artifact, or the copywriter may be confusing “clapping for Tinkerbell” with “bell-ringing for angels.” In either case, I find Join.me’s version too peculiar to be an effective snowclone—I found myself thinking, distractedly, about fairy divas and fairy = homosexual.
The “X happens” snowclone probably originated with “shit happens,” which the Yale Book of Quotations antedates to an article by Connie Eble, “UNC-CH Slang,” published in Spring 1983. “Shit happens” inspired a much-duplicated theological “shit list” (Taoism: “Shit happens”; Judaism: “Why does this shit always happen to us?”, etc.). Innumerable variations on “shit happens” include Shift Happens (a much-viewed slide presentation from 2006); Cheat Happens (“your number one source for game cheats and codes”); Love Happens (title of a forgettable 2009 movie); Knit Happens (“nirvana for knitters”); Compost Happens (a home and garden blog); and Disability Happens.
Join.me subverts the formula—“X” is usually a short, punchy word, often a pun on “shit”—by assigning a long, multisyllabic term to “X.” The new construction slows the reader down and makes comprehension anything but spontaneous. It’s a risky twist that pays off.
The .me domain extension in Join.me is the Montenegro country code.
1 Every time I see “LogMeIn,” I think it’s an item on a Chinese menu. “Join.me” is a lot clearer.
2 From the Snowclone Database: “A snowclone is a particular kind of cliché, popularly originated by Geoff Pullum. The name comes from Dr. Pullum’s much-maligned ‘If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z’. An easier example might be ‘X is the new Y.’ The short definition of this neologism might be n. fill-in-the-blank headline.”
3 Screenwriters: Frank Capra, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Jo Swerling. Screenplay here.
I've always liked "Every time you X [Google yourself, forward a chain email, etc.], a kitten dies."
Posted by: Karen | December 29, 2010 at 07:06 AM
Another favourite media snowclone, with almost as many variations as a Rubik's Cube has combinations, is "The Mother of all X".
Posted by: JT Sheerin | January 03, 2011 at 10:43 AM
JT: I wrote about "Mother of All X" in a 2007 post about vodka advertising in the US:
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | January 03, 2011 at 10:48 AM
I think fairy 'homosexual', specifically 'effeminate male homosexual', is entirely relevant to the ad: its implication is not just that Real Men don't use smiley faces, but that they are transmogrified into fairies if they do.
Posted by: John Cowan | January 03, 2011 at 11:28 AM
John: You've mistaken the SomeECards card for the ad. There's no reason "meeting online" in the Join.me ad should have implications of manliness or the lack of it. P.S. Please include your email address in the comment form or I won't publish your future comments.
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | January 03, 2011 at 11:45 AM