Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What's next?

Somebody needs to straighten out the meaning of "next", I think. Particularly in reference to time.

What does "next" mean? To me, it means whatever follows immediately after the current instance of something.

Next year: 2006 (as I write this). Correct?

Next century: the 22nd. No?

Next week: today is July 27th, so next week begins on Sunday, the 31st. Is it not so?

Here's what Webster has to say:

Main Entry:next
Pronunciation:*nekst
Function:adjective

immediately adjacent (as in place, rank, or time)

See that? IMMEDIATELY adjacent. Not EVENTUALLY. IMMEDIATELY. Okay... so why is it when I say "next weekend", so many people hear, "not the weekend immediately coming up, but the weekend after that"? That's not next weekend, that's next next weekend. To me, "this weekend" and "next weekend" mean the same thing. The one that just passed is "last weekend". The one we haven't arrived at is "next weekend". "This weekend", on Monday or Tuesday, means the one we just experienced and are likely discussing, whereas by Thursday or Friday, it means the one coming up we're making plans for. Or better yet, the one we're currently in, if it is the weekend.

If "next" means "next" to all of us in nearly ever other instance, why do some people insist on inserting an extra instance in there when we're discussing weekends?

Is "next" year 2006 or 2007? "Next" Tuesday August 2nd, or August 9th? The "next" potato chip the one you're about to take out of the bag, or the second one?

Come on, folks. Get it together. "Next" weekend starts at the end of the week.

3 comments:

James said...

Ah, but it's not that simple...

Next year is 2006, because we're *in* 2005; next week is the week of the 31st, because we're *in* the week of the 24th.

But what's next weekend when we aren't *in* a weekend? Usage varies. If "this weekend" means the weekend just past on Monday & Tuesday and the coming weekend on Wed-Fri, then shouldn't "next weekend" means the coming weekend on Monday & Tuesday and the one after that on Wed-Fri?

It's not just weekends -- any situation involving some X that you aren't actually in can lead to confusion about what "this X" and "the next X" is. Is "this X" the last one or the coming one? It's the joy of English, one of the greatest sources of ambiguity in human communication today. :)

I try to avoid it by only using "next weekend" during a weekend, and "the coming weekend" during the week.

katherine said...

Since the blog email doesn't tell which post I'm going to start making a note when it's so far back like this one. Anyway, this is in regard to the "What's next?" post.

Oooooo, I am laughing so hard! This post is too funny, though I'm guessing it wasn't funny to you at the time of the writing. And this guy James' comment -- well, that just made me laugh more.

And for the record the next potato chip is not the one I'm eating currently, but the one that I pull from the bag immediately following. Thus making it the next potato chip. ; )

Lone Primate said...

And for the record the next potato chip is not the one I'm eating currently, but the one that I pull from the bag immediately following. Thus making it the next potato chip. ; )

There you go, vindication. Took months, but I have it. :)

The posting was prompted by a misunderstanding the usage prompted in arranging time to explore one of the river valleys with a friend of mine who was way into that kind of thing when he was a younger man. Frankly, I think he was using it as a hedge, but it prompted my little screed. Now the world knows where I stand on the word "next".

Next topic, please? :)