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I've been watching the series Friends for a decade now, and I've suddenly noticed that in the titles of the episodes, it's always "the one where S + V" instead of "the one when S + V". I wonder if "when" is grammatical and why they used "where" here when actually, they were referring to a story happening at a point in time.

Thank you all in advance!

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    Both wh- words are "metaphorical". Just because a TV episode has a time duration (and may be broadcast / streamed at some particular time) doesn't necessarily mean we have to locate its characteristics in time rather than space. You wouldn't ask Which is the Harry Potter book when Dumbledore dies? For this purpose, books and TV episodes are metaphorical places where narratives are played out. Commented Feb 29 at 4:34
  • @FumbleFingers That's the answer. Commented Feb 29 at 12:51
  • Merriam-Webster dictionary shows that "where" isn't just used with place. It's very common with circumstances, situations, points in time, etc, e.g. "the size where traffic is a problem", "where the plan leads" (not necessarily a literal place), "kept that horse and gentled him to where I finally rode him" (the point at which). The common usage of "the book/film/episode where" is related to this.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 29 at 16:41
  • What titles, for example?
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 29 at 19:33
  • I think ever since it started, every episode of Friends has had a title of the general form The One Where..., as the OP points out. I don't know if any other series before or since has adopted the style. Maybe the Friends copyright holders have dibs on it, and are holding out for higher payouts! Commented Feb 29 at 22:29

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Both wh- words in OP's examples are "metaphorical". Just because a TV episode has a time duration (and may be broadcast / streamed at some particular time) doesn't necessarily mean we have to locate its characteristics in time rather than space. Bear in mind you wouldn't ask...

Which is the Harry Potter book when Dumbledore dies?

For OP's context, books and TV episodes are metaphorical places where narratives "take place" (are played out, enacted).

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  • @KenAdams It could be seen as a colloquial extension of the perhaps more literal "in which," as in the titles of chapters in the "Winnie-the-Pooh" stories, e.g. "In which Eeyore has a birthday." Within the narrative, the only thing Eeyore is "in" is the Hundred Acre Wood, but outside the narrative, from a literary perspective, the event is "in" the chapter. Commented Feb 29 at 16:42
  • @AndyBonner: I'm with John Lawler (well - not, since sadly he's no longer with us). "All language is metaphor", so you're just switching from a temporal or spatial metaphor to a container metaphor. Offhand I can't think of any others that might be used to "locate" a narrative (e.g. - surface metaphor?), but they probably do exist. Commented Feb 29 at 17:08

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