Bleached Conditionals

The truth about snow words in the Eskimo languages simply doesn’t matter. If it did, I would carefully explain that there seem to be only a handful of roots that really are snow roots in the languages of the Yup’iks and Inuits, maybe four or five, not very different from the number found in English (snow, sleet, slush, blizzard). But it doesn’t matter. All that matters to journalists is that they continue to have the snowbound simile in question at their disposal for constant use whenever a line or two needs to be filled up with linguistic babble.

But this is what makes the point I made about the conditional example above so clear. You are supposed to know that there are dozens of words for snow in a language called “Eskimo”. (Sure, there is no such language, and you have never seen any data, but never mind, you are just supposed to know that it’s true.) It’s meant to be publicly known, in the common ground. —Geoffrey K. PullumBleached Conditionals (Language Log)

This entry lead to the coining of a new term to describe this kind of structural duplication: snowcloning.

It’s much catchier than “bleached conditionals.”