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"Well, now, if I didn't think you sewed his collar with white thread, but it's black."
"Why, I did sew it with white! Tom!"
It seems "if" in the first sentence has a special usage. What does "if" mean in this sentence?
Thank you.
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Comments  
There is a problem with the sentence.
Remember that this was written in the 1870s, zuotengdazuo, in a novel in which Mark Twain used a lot of non-standard English in the speech of his characters. It means something like "Well I never! I thought that you had sewn his collar with white thread; in fact, it's black".
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zoutengazuo:
I'm surprised that you hadn't notice the southern English dialect characteristic of country people who didn't have much formal education. They spoke a dialect of English that is non standard. Here is an an earlier passage.

"Hang the boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't he played me tricks enough like that for me to be looking out for him by this time? But old fools is the biggest fools there is. Can't learn an old dog new tricks, as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days, and how is a body to know what's coming? He 'pears to know just how long he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows if he can make out to put me off for a minute or make me laugh, it's all down again and I can't hit him a lick. I ain't doing my duty by that boy, and that's the Lord's truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile the child, as the Good Book says. I'm a laying up sin and suffering for us both, I know. He's full of the Old Scratch, but laws-a-me! he's my own dead sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash him, somehow.
zuotengdazuoIt seems "if" in the first sentence has a special usage.
No. 'if' means 'if'. I believe this if is a reduction from I'll be [darned / damned] if ..., always followed by a negative (e.g., I didn't ...). It expresses wonder, surprise, and/or amazement while at the same time serving more literally as an oath that what follows is the absolute truth.
__________

There is another use of I'll be damned if which means "I won't allow (something) to happen", but that is not the intended meaning in this context.

CJ
fivejedjonin fact, it's white".
Thank you. I didn't even know it was written by Mark Twain when I posted my question. I asked the question because someone else brought up it to me and I didn't know how I could answer him.
On a side note, there seems to be a typo in your last sentence. Did you mean to say "... in fact, it's black"?
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CalifJim zuotengdazuoIt seems "if" in the first sentence has a special usage.No. 'if' means 'if'. I believe this if is a reduction from I'll be [darned / damned] if ..., always followed by a negative (e.g., I didn't ...). It expresses wonder, surprise, and/or amazement while at the same time serving more literally as an oath that what follows is the absolute truth.__________There is another use of I'll be damned if which means "I won't allow (something) to happen", but that is not the intended meaning in this context.CJ
Thank you all. But somehow I think "I'll be darned if ..." in the sense of "I won't allow (something) to happen" also make sense in this context.
I won't allow me not to think you sewed his collar with white thread = I thought that you had sewn his collar with white thread
right?
I don't personally see this as non-standard English. I use this kind of "if" myself (perhaps slightly knowingly), e.g. in cases such as "Well, if it isn't so-and-so!" or "Well, if there aren't three buses here all at once!".
zuotengdazuoright?
No. Not to me. I've already said that.

CJ
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