Geoff Pullum, "It's like so unfair", 11/22/2003:
Why are the old fogeys and usage whiners of the world so upset about the epistemic-hedging use of like, as in She's, like, so cool? The old fogeys use equivalent devices themselves, all the time. An extremely common one is "if you will". [...]
Like functions in younger speakers' English as something perfectly ordinary: a way to signal hedging about vocabulary choice — a momentary uncertainty about whether the adjacent expression is exactly the right form of words or not. If the English language didn't implode when if you will took on this kind of role among the baby boomers, it will survive having like take on an extremely similar role for their kids.
I responded that "Like is, like, not really like if you will" (11/22/2003), mostly on the basis of a difference in maximum frequency of usage. I was reminded of this argument, and tempted to take it back, when I read "Texas Gov. Rick Perry: 'Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me…'", FRCBlog 7/28/2011.
In his interview with the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, Gov. Rick Perry achieves a striking local density of instances of "if you will", for example here:
And that is the reason that uh the federal marriage amendment
uh is being offered.
Because- and it's those-
you know it's- it's a small group of-
of- of activist judges, and-
and- and frankly a small
handful if you will
of- of states
and these liberal special interest groups
that are intent on
a redefinition if you will of marriage in- on the nation, on-
for all of us, which
I adamantly oppose.
And a couple of sentences later:
uh uh the- the- the con- the-
the overall constitutional uh
protection if you will
by and how we amend our United States constitution to reflect
the values of- of the nation as a whole
((is)) very important
A quick web search suggests that if Rick Perry throws his hat into the 2012 presidential ring, as speculation suggests he may well do, empirically-minded students of discourse particles (if a three-word phrase can be called a "particle"?) will be treated to plenty of new data on the distribution of "if you will". On the other hand, Lemont Brown will not be pleased (Ben Zimmer, "The idiom police, if you will", 7/2/2011)…
(link) The best concrete evidence that I'm really not running for president is this book, because when you read this book, you're going to see me talking about issues that for someone running for public office, it's kind of been the third rail if you will.
(link) So Texans aren't getting into their savings by and large. So, there may be some folks that it's very tempting to go take that money, spend it on recurring events, recurring costs, if you will.
(link) Obviously, being able to speak English is a very important aspect of getting ahead in this country. I'm a big fan of total emersion of individuals who have English as a second language. Getting them to be able to speak right and converse appropriately in English should be all of our goals, so every way we can do that to help people become more engaged if you will in our culture, being able to speak the language is a very important one.
(link) Well, we still believe in freedom in Texas, and when I say that, I'm talking about freedom from over-taxation, over-regulation, over-litigation. You know, there's a thousand-plus that add to the roles of the population of Texas every day. I mean just a huge migration coming into the state from places that do overtax and over-regulate, so that I think in a nutshell is the real difference that people see as Washington continues to be displaced, that one size fits all and trying to force us all into their image, if you will.
(link) Why is Texas kind of recession-proof, if you will? As a matter of fact, just today I think, Michael, you said someone had put a report out that the first state that’s coming out of the recession is going to be the State of Texas. I told him, I said, ‘We’re in one?’
(link) The 10th amendment clearly says the states are where the action is supposed to be, if you will.
Of course, I don't mean to suggest that Rick Perry is unique among contemporary American politicians, or even among potential 2012 Republican candidates for president, in using "if you will" as a hedge.
But here's an interesting thing. Gov. Perry characteristically deploys "if you will" after the word or phrase being hedged — "to the right", if you will. In a quick web search, I see some evidence that Mitt Romney characteristically deploys his "if you will" hedges "to the left":
(link) “There are some unions that continue to train their workers effectively, their members effectively,” Romney said. “But in some cases, if you will the union bosses — the union CEOs that are running the unions — perhaps put the interests of themselves ahead of the interests of their workers. And that may have been what happened in South Carolina.”
(link) Gov. Romney responded: "I don't do any particular raids, but we'll follow the law. And I, I'm not familiar with what they're doing in Nevada, personally, I'm in Massachusetts, all right, that was where I was governor and I believe in following the law and I also believe that medical marijuana is, if you will, a Trojan Horse for bringing marijuana into our society and I think that's the wrong way to go. I think the far better way to go is to treat people with other medications that are available, and synthetic marijuana that provides the same pain relief that can be received by, uh, by marijuana."
(link) Mitt Romney told the Herald that "I am, if you will, personally pro-life."
(link) "I know a lot of people have been asking, 'when is this campaign really going to get going? When do the gears get into place?' And the answer is today," Romney said on the call. "This is the time that we are, if you will, activating our friends across the country."
Update — and of course other politicians also use this expression:
so this is not
to talk about gay bashing
do we understand that, that's not what this is about
but it's to say
of a new status
same-sex marriage status
bringing it into the main stream if you will, giving it a legitimacy if you will
that that will impact
uh the gay community ((but)) every man, woman, and child, particularly the schools
I'm sure that there are plenty of Democrats in the mix as well, but my quick web search for examples from Barack Obama and Joe Biden has come up empty so far.