[Ads-l] when = 'if'

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 29 18:16:47 UTC 2015

On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 1:55 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> OED when, def. 8a ends by saying "sometimes nearly = 'if.'"
> Cites go back to ca1175.
> There is, however what I take to be a recent usage that goes further and
>  essentially equals "if."
> Current TV commercial:
> "When you're a cat, you ignore people. It's what you do."
> I.e., you ignore people "if" you're a cat. "When" implies there are times
> when you're not.
> Which is never, if you're a cat.

I think you might have misheard that, Jon. Sounds like "if" to me:


It's one of a series of Geico commercials involving versions of the
line, "If you're X, you Y. It's what you do."


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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