Who’s Smiling Now? Newsweek Gives Hillary Clinton a Snowclone

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joins actress Cate Blanchett and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh on the ever-growing list of people who smile enigmatically. This time, it’s Newsweek, the May 2 issue, page 17: “Why Is This Woman Smiling?”, on an extended caption in its News Gallery section.

It’s a particularly bold usage, because the picture doesn’t make it clear that Clinton is smiling at all. Her lips are pressed together and slightly upturned, but her head is tilted at an angle that makes the expression hard to read, and a large pair of sunglasses conceals her orbicularis oculi muscles . (Why does Newsweek think this woman is smiling?)

Meanwhile, readers have pushed the date of the original headline use of “Why Is This [X] [SMILING/LAUGHING]?” to the early ‘60s. Esquire’s Tim Heffernan wrote:


I don’t know if Esquire coined the phrase “why is this man laughing”—I have this nagging sense that it was a ‘50s-era advertising cliché that the magazine took mocking advantage of—but I think we can probably claim to have kept it alive.

Anyway, if that’s the case, it began not in the 1970s but way back in January 1962, in the first “Dubious Achievement Awards,” as the caption on five identical photos of Richard Nixon laughing wildly at something.

Esquire cites that event


. And Adam Newman wrote that the initial 1962 usage in Esquire was the work of his uncle David Newman and Robert Benton, who also teamed up to write the screenplay for Bonnie and Clyde.