Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s favorite phrase: ‘If you will’

If there’s one phrase that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee adores, it’s “if you will.”

The Texas Democrat has slipped the expression into her comments on the House floor dozens of times in just the past few months.

If you will be so kind to read on, let us count the ways in which she loves “if you will.”

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While speaking in late December, the congresswoman managed to mention the figure of speech not once, but twice, in a matter of mere minutes: “You expect us to take care of the dams and bridges, the highways, to ensure that America’s infrastructure is working, that the electric grid can withstand a cyberattack, a potential homeland attack, if you will.”

She continued just a few moments later, “And so I would hope that we would find the collegiate ability to give the media back home and here more positive messages to take back and not utilize, if you will, the media waves in the First Amendment to ridicule an institution that so many of us and all of us hold dear.”

In January remarks — ironically, about how “words matter”— Lee put her favorite phrase to use once again to admonish an Atlanta newspaper columnist: “And, frankly, the latitude in which he thought he could talk about assassinating the president of the United States without in any way a suggestion of, if you will, challenge, is an outrage and disgrace.”

And a week later Lee was at it again, using another classic idiom to lead into her go-to saying: “Mr. Speaker, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let us not, if you will, pass this bill that denies that America has a heart in the most difficult times of Americans.”

After reading a few instances of Lee reciting her oft-used words of choice, Robin Dodsworth, an assistant professor of linguistics at N.C. State University, calls the congresswoman’s use of the phrase “truly functional.”

Writes Dodsworth in an email, “I would guess that the phrase is being used to flag a particular claim, or word, or characterization, as being somewhat up for debate.”

The scholar adds, “I should mention that this use of ‘if you will’ is probably not conscious on Rep. Lee’s part, and who knows, maybe it’s also used as a pause-filler. But in the examples here, I see a real function.”

So ITK called up the lawmaker’s office and asked, “If you will, could you shed some light on Lee’s constant use of ‘if you will’?”

The congresswoman’s office didn’t get back to us.