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In Wallace's "Infinite Jest", he describes a girl as being "two hundred kilos if she was a kilo". Is she two hundred kilos or isn't she ... ?

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    Possible answer on English.SE: english.stackexchange.com/questions/14216/…
    – stangdon
    Dec 14, 2015 at 21:05
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    Apparently a duplicate can only mean "a duplicate of something else on ELL.SE" but this is one on English.SE, so I'll make it an answer.
    – stangdon
    Dec 14, 2015 at 21:11
  • Just my opinion: It's not truly a "duplicate" if the question is answered on another exchange. It's completely up to you if you want leave it open here; I can close it if you think the matter is settled, but it might be helpful for learners around the globe to have this question on this exchange.
    – J.R.
    Dec 14, 2015 at 21:14

1 Answer 1

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The idiom "it's X if it's Y", where Y is much smaller than X, like

  • "She was two hundred kilos if she was a kilo"
  • "He's six feet tall if he's an inch"
  • "It's twenty miles if it's a yard"

is an informal, emphatic way of saying I am certain that X.

You could think of it as a way of saying, for example, "I am as certain that she weighs 200 kilos as I am that she weighs at least one kilo (and since she definitely weighs at least one kilo, I am therefore certain that she weighs 200 kilos)."

See this discussion on English.SE: Origin of “he's 6 feet tall if he's an inch”

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  • I think this is an example of a snowclone.
    – jimsug
    Dec 15, 2015 at 4:26

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