snowclone: A by B, C by D

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Sep 30 02:54:32 UTC 2007

On 9/29/07, Clai Rice <cxr1086 at> wrote:
> Given the examples and a few more I was able to dredge up, the formula might
> more exactly be:
>         Adj1 by NP1, Adj2 by NP2
> My first reaction was to remember a phrase ubiquitous still in today's
> South:
>         "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God"
> I couldn't turn up much history on this phrase. The earliest Google books
> example is a line for VS Naipaul's _A Turn in the South_ (Knopf, 1989), p.
> 292, unconfirmed by snippet view.
> In 1988 MCA released a Lynryd Skynyrd tribute album called--a little
> misleadingly--"Lynyrd Skynyrd Live," documenting a 1987 tribute tour. The
> album, like the tour, was subtitled "Southern by the Grace of God," and
> eventually this became the common title for the album as it is listed by
> discographies and Amazon, etc. The earliest Lexis Nexis citations of the
> whole phrase and the second half, respectively, are reviews of those two
> publications. I don't have access to

Earliest cite I see is:

Aiken (S.C.) Standard, March 22, 1984, p. 1, col. 1
Have You Heard
... about the bumper sticker seen recently?
It read, "American by birth -
Southern by the grace of God."

The saying also appears as a lyric in "American By Birth," sung by
Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings on their 1986 album "Heroes." Roger
Alan Wade gets the songwriting credit. According to Wikipedia, "his
best known compositions include 'BB Gun,' 'Butt Ugly Slut,'
'Poontang,' and 'If You're Gonna Be Dumb.'" Quite an oeuvre.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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