Hiding implentation details by writing tiny functions instead of just using references the way everybody else does rarely makes code cleaner. This is doubly true when the function you replace it with is obfuscated.
If you really need a golf function to do it though, it can be made shorter...
... but you have to write a wrapper for every built-in list function.
To me it feels more like this function would be used by people not confident with references and autovivification, in which case I recommend reading perldata and perlreftut instead of writing wrappers.