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This is the scenario I'm thinking of. Person A talks to person B about something. Then person C joins them. For some reason Person A says something to Person C that they were just talking about with person B. They preface it with "As I was just saying to B...". If person B weren't within earshot they wouldn't say it.

I've only my own experience to go on, but this isn't an unusual thing for me to hear. I'm in the SE of the UK.

What is the meaning behind those words? I have my own theory, but I'd like to hear yours.

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This is a question about people interaction, not the use of that English expression. The answer is "because maybe they want to involve the person C", but this is not an answer related to English usage. :) –  Alenanno Feb 1 '12 at 14:00
    
I've clarified the question because I'm looking for the meaning. –  paulmorriss Feb 1 '12 at 14:09
    
Now you've accepted an answer -- what was your own theory? –  slim Feb 1 '12 at 17:01
    
They are saying to person B "I know I'm repeating myself" or as you say "a recognition that what you are saying isn't a brand new idea; it reassures Alice that the previous conversation hasn't been forgotten.". –  paulmorriss Feb 1 '12 at 17:07
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closed as off topic by Alenanno, Urbycoz, Will Hunting, Mahnax, Mitch Feb 1 '12 at 15:59

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

"As I was saying to Alice, it's been cold recently."

Means "In the same way that I was telling Alice (in an inferred prior conversation), I am now telling you that it has been cold recently."

The person is not only telling you about the cold weather, they are also telling you about their conversation with Alice. So you can infer:

  • The person had a conversation with Alice recently
  • The person thinks it's been cold recently
  • Alice now also knows that the person thinks it's been cold recently
  • There's a strong chance that Alice agrees (unless followed up with "but Alice thinks it's been unseasonably mild").

That's a lot of information, that the speaker believes might be of interest to you.

You might reasonably respond:

"Alice? How is Alice these days?"

... which of course wouldn't have been a valid direction for the conversation if they hadn't mentioned their conversation with Alice.

Of course, there are all kinds of reasons the person might want to tell you that they'd been talking to Alice. Perhaps she is a mutual friend; perhaps the person simply wants to name-drop:

"As I was saying to Brad Pitt at the Oscars after-party ..."

You mention: "If person B weren't within earshot they wouldn't say it." -- I don't believe that is the case. The phrase is often used when Alice isn't present.

If Alice were in earshot, then the mention of the previous conversation with Alice would be:

  • an invitation for her to join your conversation, and perhaps expand upon what was said
  • a recognition that what you are saying isn't a brand new idea; it reassures Alice that the previous conversation hasn't been forgotten.
  • in an ongoing conversation, an apology to Alice for retreading old ground, and a hint to you that you shouldn't go into it in too much depth because it may bore Alice.
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It's not any sort of idiom; A literally wants to repeat something B has heard but C has not, and it would be rude not to acknowledge the fact. You might think of it as introducing a quote: "As D said to me yesterday...." is making clear that it is not an original phrase, and "As I said to B just now..." is the same.

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What's the mystery? The statement is literally true: A is repeating something he just said to B. Presumably he adds the "as I was just saying" as a gesture of politeness to B: Yes, I'm repeating something I just said to you, but it's because a new person has joined the conversation who didn't hear it the first time. I don't think there's any complex, subtle connotation to it. At least, not in general: there might be in some specific instance.

By the way, it's not at all uncommon for people to use similar phrases when B is NOT in earshot. Whether the fact that what A is saying now is a repeat of an earlier conversation with a different person is a piece of information that is of value in the present conversation depends on context. Often it probably isn't, it's just that the speaker knows he said the same thing yesterday and it feels odd to repeat it without some explanation, even though he's the only one in the room who knows he said it yesterday.

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