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There is a conversation in Californication season 5, ep. 9 where Tyler talks to Charlie and Charlie says:

- I'd love to Tyler, but they watch me like a hawk here

- I so much as look at a naked picture on the Internet, and H.R. swoops in, and alarm goes off.

and I don't understant the second Charlies line. Could you explain it please?

Californication series are full of intricated conversations for non-english-speakers, a great part of them I can figure out on my own digging on the Internet, google translate, Collins and urban dictionaries, but sometimes I just can't get over something like this.

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2 Answers 2

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The word if is implied at the start of the sentence, which then can be interpreted as:

  • If I so much as look at a naked picture, then H.R. swoops in, and the alarm goes off.

The expression so much as here means something like even if I only do this little thing, it has negative and disproportionate consequences. Other examples:

  • If I so much as look at a cake, I put on weight.
  • If I so much as express my opinion, he starts shouting at me.
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I disagree that connotation of "negative and disproportionate consequences" is built into idiomaic "so much as". Of course the phrase is often used to introduce clauses to such effect, but that is not part of the meaning of the phrase. –  jwpat7 Mar 31 '12 at 14:15
    
@jwpat7: I think you're mistaken. Since the form If [pronoun] so much as [verb] is almost always used in conjunction with "negative and disproportionate consequences", it does carry that association. If the consequences are positive [and disproportionate], you're more likely to see [pronoun] has merely to [verb]. –  FumbleFingers Mar 31 '12 at 15:02
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I think I have to agree with @jwpat7 here. The 'so much as' phrase is a litotic expression for doing something to a lesser degree than is typically expected. One is normally expected to eat a piece of cake, but if I so much as look at it... How about this scenario: The object of a game is to knock a ball of a stand. The game has been running for too long and it is decided to amend the rules to shorten the game. The organizers annouce, "Instead of knocking the ball off, if anyone so much as touches it, they will win." - Yes, they could have used 'merely', but they didn't have to. –  Jim Mar 31 '12 at 17:44
    
In my answer I was explaining the meaning of the phrase so much as in the context of the OP's query sentence. I was not making the strong claim that it always has such a connotation. Nevertheless, a brief perusal of hits in Google Books suggests that this is indeed by far its most common usage. –  Shoe Mar 31 '12 at 18:45
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"The clerks are so attentive in this department store that if you so much as raise an eyebrow, they come running." Sorry, the claim that so much as is always used with disproportionate negative consequences is not believable. –  Kaz Mar 31 '12 at 23:56
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[If] I [do] so much as [to] look at a naked picture on the Internet, and H.R. swoops in, an alarm goes off.

In other words, if I even look at a naked picture etc., an alarm will go off.

"So much as" is largely an American English expression that commonly replaces "even".

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That last sentence is just nonsense. –  Matt Эллен Jun 12 '12 at 13:16
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