[Ads-l] when = 'if'

Geoffrey Steven Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Tue Sep 29 20:07:04 UTC 2015

And, of course, there's the almost 60 year old

When you're a Jet
You're a Jet all the way
>From your first cigarette
To your last dying day.

where it's clear that there's no time when you're not a Jet.


Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)

Nobody at Wayne State will EVER ask you for your password. Never send it to anyone in an email, no matter how authentic the email looks.

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 2:38 PM
Subject: Re: when = 'if'

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Subject:      Re: when = 'if'

Interesting, but I think there's more to it.  The subject has to be an =
impersonal, "you" or "one", to get that non-temporal reading. (Of =
course, the Geico commercial [it is Geico, right?] plays on this by =
pretending that the audience for their commercials includes cats, but =
that's another matter.)  So consider:

When you're a Kurd, you have no homeland.  (No implication that you're =
sometimes a non-Kurd.)
When you're blind, railroad crossings can be a hazard. (No implication =
that there are/were times you aren't/weren't blind.)

or take this one, from the web:
"Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you're a human =
being, you feel, you suffer."
(Not directed specifically to werewolves or teenage mutant ninja turtles =
who can turn non-human.)

What you can't get, I think, is a case where the "you" really is =
second-personal and not impersonal, for example when no generic reading =
is possible. So compare:

When you're a woman, you avoid dark streets in sketchy neighborhoods =
after dark. =20
When you were a woman, you avoided dark streets in sketchy neighborhoods =
after dark.

Only the latter, with its true second-person subject, implies gender =
reassignment, sex change, or the like.  I agree that "if" paraphrases =
"when" in the relevant cases (i.e. when "one" more or less paraphrases =
"you"), but the tricky part is figuring out when this arises. =20


> On Sep 29, 2015, at 1:55 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> =
> OED when, def. 8a ends by saying "sometimes nearly =3D 'if.'"
> Cites go back to ca1175.
> There is, however what I take to be a recent usage that goes further =
> 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 =
> when you're not.
> Which is never, if you're a cat.
> JL
> --=20
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the =
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - =

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