21 September 2005

to clone or not to clone

In my continuing search for lexical items crossing over sports, I come across this headline:

QB or not QB.

The to X or not to X structure is pretty clearly a snowclone, of the type frequently tracked on Language Log. This one's also pretty easy to date; it's at least as old as Shakespeare's Hamlet, but I suppose it's possible that the Bard may have lifted it from one of his contemporaries' work.

A google search of to * or not to * gets the following phrases on page 1:

to be or not to be
to Lariam or not to Lariam
to spank or not to spank
to pee or not to pee
to MBA or not to MBA
to hack or not to hack
to blog or not to blog
to breed or not to breed

And none of these actually discusses the play.

Regardless, the structure is so utterly common that its absence from the Google Meme Observatory is, IMHO, forgiveable. More curiously, the search term "to * or not *" snowclone has odd results: it gets lots of accidental hits with phrases like to whether or not *, alongside discussions of other snowclones.

Only one page actually has the snowclone, viewable only in its Google cache form. The structure is in a message board post by a user named Snowclone, whose post signature includes the phrase "'To act, or not to act' is not the question for at some point in our lives we all act." It's not clear whether user Snowclone knows his/her sig has a snowclone in it.


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