What do you call a phrase the where overall phrase structure (i.e. grammar) plus the use of a few fixed words makes it recognisable?

E.g. "raining cats and dogs" could also be "pouring cats and dogs" (although this is a very poor example).

The structure in this example is "[verb]-ing cats and dogs", where "[verb]" can be any verb that is a synonym of "to rain", meaning that the phrase is not totally fixed but does allow some small variation.

  • Kind of a synonym-friendly phrase. – Zan700 Aug 5 '18 at 2:57

I'm not so sure about this, but there is a term called "snowclone" which was coined in 2004 for expressions which use a common and recognisable combination of words, sometimes a cliche or an idiom, with another part inserted at the speaker's discretion.

See the article here at Wikipedia:

I'm not so sure it fits what you're intending. It's generally like a recycled meme with different people adding their own variation to it for humour or some other effect. If you look at the examples on the article some of them are quite funny: "Driving while black".

  • I suspect X while Y is an Americanism, because it doesn't click with me. X is the new Y is, however, exactly what I'm looking for! – CJ Dennis Aug 5 '18 at 3:17

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