August 07

Ukraine is not Argentina is not Greece is not Spain

Everything, it often seems, is the new something.

Since long before they were herded, prodded and branded – along with flocks of other clichés – as snowclones, “x is the new y” lines have become inescapable journalistic shorthand for conveying the notion that something has become popular or prevalent. Such is their ubiquity, Private Eye has a long-running column devoted to them, unshelling such pearls as:

Knitting is the new yoga.

Open is the new closed.

Comedy/acting/chemistry/flower arranging is the new rock ‘n’ roll.

And, of course, [insert almost anything you like here] is the new black.

new-black copylab

(Indeed, our aptly named insider Duncan Black pointed out that when it comes to financial reporting, black is in fact the new black.)

But while “x is the new y” is a well-established staple for harried and/or lazy writers, much less focus is lavished on its contrary cousin “x is not y”. This sprang to mind last week thanks to a Tweet from journalist Maxim Eristavi. The eastern European specialist was taking issue with a statement from Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk, following dreadful economic news emanating from his country, insisting that “Ukraine is not Argentina”.

As Eristavi’s Tweet demonstrated, with these words, Yatsenyuk was joining a less than auspicious roll call:

copylab ukraine argentina

However, despite doomed finance ministers’ enthusiasm for the term, a trawl around Google revealed rather fewer instances of “x is not y” in other contexts. (Of course, “is not” does not lend itself too well to Google searches.)

So we may be missing a trick here. There is, surely, no end of possibilities for the reverse form of this snowclone – let’s call it snow contraire (sorry) – emphasising that no matter how awful something seems, it is absolutely, definitively, irrefutably not the same as something even worse.

Until it is.

X is not Brazil at the 2014 World Cup (said moments before a team is walloped)

X is not John Carter of Mars (presaging a lolloping cinematic turkey)

X is not Godfrey Bloom (said of an, ahem, traditional politician about to address a women’s conference)

X is not Spiderman the Musical (nuff said)

We’ll be keeping an eye open for any such harbingers of doom and tweeting them with the hashtag #snowcontraire. Please feel free to chime in with any prime examples.