Readers of this blog may be surprised to learn that its most frequently downloaded PDF (according to Awstats) is the article “Wimp English” (American Speech 68.3 , 327-330), co-written by my wife of blessed memory, Marianne Shapiro, a scholar with a high level of awareness (and avoidance) of speech mannerisms, especially clichés. The Macmillan Dictionary definition of this phraseologism is ‘FORMAL used when describing something in an unusual way or in a way that you think someone might not agree with;’ (Example: “It’s relaxation; another form of meditation, if you will.”) Whereas this locution is heard les and less frequently in public discourse, the corresponding British English phrase “if you like” is still to be heard often enough, if speakers on BBC World Service are any measure of its frequency. The Oxford Living Dictionaries definition is ‘Used when expressing something in a new or tentative way’ (Ex: ‘it’s a whole new branch of chemistry, a new science if you like’).
While the speech practices of present-day Albion with regard to this phraseologism have alredy been instanced herein (“Fear of Linguistic Indirection: British ‘if you like’,” March 31, 2016), perhaps it would bear emphasis to say that speakers are evidently sensitive to the limits of credibility of their utterances and structure them with this awareness in mind, quite apart from their epistemic truthfulness or validity. The thoughts, attitudes, and value systems lying behind speech are always ready to be linguistically expressed––and are––when needed.