[Ads-l] when = 'if'

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Sep 29 18:48:38 UTC 2015

Well, my comments still apply.  I can imagine a "when" there for "if", just in case the "you" isn't really "you".  Googling "When you're a cat" does pull up a few similar contexts (though not the commercial in question), e.g.

21 Words That Mean Something Different When You're A Cat.  [for example, "laptop" = 'bed']
How to ride a horse when you're a cat
When you're a cat, everything has the potential to scare the crap out of you.
When you're a cat, a book makes a great pillow.

not to mention various take-offs on the West Side Story patter song ("When you're a cat, you're a cat all the way...")

Then there's "when you're a woman":
Going bald sucks, but it sucks more when you're a woman
How to Survive the Finance World When You're a Woman.
Going On Holiday Is Hard When You're A Woman
When you're a woman you have to prove, more than if you're a man, that...
[note the interchangeability here of "when" and "if"]


> On Sep 29, 2015, at 2:16 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 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:
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.youtube.com_watch-3Fv-3DKk-5F6-5FVhwijA&d=AwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=NL2xngCwyXtyyVo5SvHjrZY3DK-488zHQB1g3FDd8wQ&s=NuMljHZNhvgdmyePPDo8tDVifqkWoOQZxYVJzVilEDs&e= 
> 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."
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.americandialect.org&d=AwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=NL2xngCwyXtyyVo5SvHjrZY3DK-488zHQB1g3FDd8wQ&s=n8HAqUsvCucgwyZeYS3i3-k9TfjYGUHK2CivMv2u3V8&e= 

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