What is the name of the rhetorical device of slightly changing a standard phrase?

Here is an example:

McDonald's Yuan Menu

The original word, "Dollar," has been replaced with "Yuan," giving the phrase a new meaning, but a recognizable context.

Here's another example:

Clean Air Guitar Act

The word, "Guitar," has been inserted into the phrase, "Clean Air Act."

A near identical question has been asked here, "Changing a quotation so that the original is recognised, but has been given a new meaning."

Here are the answers that were provided to that question:

  • trope

  • reference

  • allusion

  • pop culture reference

  • play on a quote

  • snowclone

  • paraphrasing

None of these answers are good. Trope, reference, and allusion are very broad terms. More important, they don't actually describe the act of slightly altering a phrase, and instead are describing the mere mention of a phrase. Snowclone is not correct because a snowclone describes a template based on an idiom.

  • neologism - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neologism
    – TsSkTo
    Dec 31, 2015 at 19:07
  • The guitar example is kind of like parody.
    – Barmar
    Jan 1, 2016 at 3:17
  • Twisted cliché/quote ?
    – Graffito
    Jan 30, 2016 at 20:28
  • 1
    "Clean Air Guitar Act" would need a suitable context to be humorous, meaningful or worth stringing together. It's merely splicing together collocations with a common word, deleting one occurrence of the common word. Rather like missing the first two letters off every word. Mar 30, 2016 at 21:27
  • @EdwinAshworth “Clean air guitar act” could almost be a puzzle in the “Before and After” category on “Wheel of Fortune.” (I only watch it to see how well Vanna White has held up over the years, of course!)
    – Papa Poule
    Mar 30, 2016 at 22:22

3 Answers 3


Phrasal template seems to be the best term for it. "McDonald's _____ Menu" is the template in that example, where any currency could be used to fill in the blank.


Clean Air Guitar Act

is an example of a different type of wordplay, and not the same device as the "Yuan Menu". This is important because the distinction is that the "Yuan Menu" isn't using similar terms meant to be humorous, it's just to fit the McDonald's template.

  • "Clean Air Guitar Act" is not actually a pun since there is only one meaning. A pun has two discrete meanings, such as, "The pigs were a squeal."
    – Kyle
    Dec 31, 2015 at 19:16
  • @Kyle I've changed it to a more generic phrase.
    – user44294
    Dec 31, 2015 at 19:57

You might say that you put a new twist on the phrase.

I think I'd prefer a more formal term if you can find one, though.


It sounds a good deal like "metaplasm," though strictly speaking that term applies to changes of a letter or syllable in a word; the principle, however, seems to be what you are looking for: "Metaplasm 1. Grammar. Usu. with reference to classical languages: the alteration of a word by addition, removal, or transposition of letters or syllables; an instance of this." OED definition.


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