Conditional imperfection

Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Fri Nov 22 12:27:33 UTC 2013

On 11/22/13 12:00 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
> Date:    Thu, 21 Nov 2013 00:32:02 -0500
> From:    John Doe<hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: Conditional imperfection
> On Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 11:50 PM, Neal Whitman<nwhitman at>wrote:
>> >Technical sense? This was my first inkling that there was more than
>> >     one sense!
>> >
> I agree. When would anyone say "if and only if" in random conversation,
> anyway? It sounds pretentious.
> --
> -Wilson
If you're the kid of someone with a math or logic background, you may
hear the parent use this. You may also hear it on radio, or in film or
tv (Sherlock Holmes adaptations?). And being just a kid and not exposed
to the mathematical or logical technical sense, you reanalyze it as "if,
and only if," -- an emphatic construction. I am betting that there are
*tons* of speakers out there who have heard the phrase and use it in a
non-logical sense. Haven't we seen lots of terms with narrow, specific
technical meanings take on broader senses due to use outside of that field?

---Amy West

The American Dialect Society -

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