“This book will change your wife.”

The cliché is “This book will change your life”.

By changing one word, the cliché is transformed into a more interesting sentence: in this case about a novel, 50 Shades of Grey.

Is the word wife in this context a trope?

trope (trp) n.

  1. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor.
  2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies.

"This book will change your wife" was one of the comments in a television program on Channel 4.


The programme examines the sociological and cultural effects the book is having in the UK, as sales of obscure classical music and bondage gear increase.

TV REVIEW: Sex Story - 50 Shades Of Grey - The Study Of A Phenomenon Of BDSM, Or 'Mummy Porn'



bondage and discipline

sadism and masochism

Actually, I was hoping for a little bit more of a discussion about 'What is a trope?' and 'Why, wife in this context, is not a trope?

  • 2
    What did your dictionary say a 'trope' is?
    – Mitch
    Sep 2 '12 at 1:16
  • I don't think it's a trope. One slang term that comes to mind is a "takeoff" or a "parody". It's amusing, but not a metaphor, because, if you've read or read about 50 Shades of Grey, you'd know that the sentence is being literal: If your wife reads the novel, she will change and become your sex slave. If she can plow through the purulent prose, that is.
    – user21497
    Sep 2 '12 at 1:59
  • 1
    Sounds like a deliberate malapropism to me.
    – Robusto
    Sep 2 '12 at 2:36
  • 3
    Or maybe it could be labeled as a pun?
    – J.R.
    Sep 2 '12 at 9:16
  • 2
    I think it's just a pun. And if the comment had been “This book will chain your wife," it would have been a double pun.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jun 28 '15 at 7:31

Wife is certainly not a trope. A trope is the use of a word in a figurative sense, but here wife has its literal meaning.

Other rhetorical devices might apply to this word. For example, the sentence is a paraprosdokian, “a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part” (Wikipedia).

  • +1 "paraprosdokian" never heard about that form. But reading the examples on wikipedia... well I'm not entirely convinced it is a paraprosdokian. Just my point of view. Sep 2 '12 at 8:04
  • 1
    @StephaneRolland I suppose it depends on your interpretation. I took the twist to to be much like the one in the sentence "divorce will change your wife" – which is certainly a paraprosdokian.
    – MetaEd
    Sep 2 '12 at 8:08

I'm not sure if this has been parodied enough to quite count as a snowclone, but that's probably still what I would call it.

The Snowclones Database

Wikipedia article on Snowclones


What is a trope?

This book will change your wife.

'Why, 'wife' in this context, is not a trope?

A literary trope is the use of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning. The term trope derives from the Greek τρόπος (tropos), "turn, direction, way", related to the root of the verb τρέπειν (trepein), "to turn, to direct, to alter, to change".[1]


Since the 1970s, the word has also come to mean a commonly recurring motif or device, a cliché.

Is it a trope or a cliché?

'This book will change your life' is a trope because it a cliché.

'This book will change your wife' is also a trope because it is a novel reinterpretation of a cliché or trope, breathing new life into it by giving it a new literal meaning.

'This book will change your sex life'.

In linguistics, trope is a rhetorical figure of speech that consists of a play on words, i.e., using a word in a way that is different (often strikingly so) from its accepted literal or normal form.

So replacing 'life' with 'wife' a word that rhymes with 'life' but has a strikingly different meaning, (and a meaning which is relevant to the context), is quite a good 'play on words' that differs from the normal form.

If 'This book will change your life' is a cliché then 'This book will change your wife' is a trope.

A trope is a way of turning a word away from its normal meaning, or turning it into something else.


Is there any hint in the sentence that might indicate that "wife" means something different from "wife"? I understand "wife" simply as "wife".

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