Monday, April 17, 2006

This. Next. When? What?

Today is Monday the 17th. What will be the date next Friday?

Okay, show of hands. How many people said the 21st? How many people said the 28th?

You wanna start a big argument over something that should really be simple? Throw that question out at the next lunch table and see what your co-workers say.

People have been dealing with the concept of relative time for several millennia. But they have yet to figure out what to do with the word “next”. The problem comes when people confuse “next Friday” with “the Friday in next week”.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you would say the answer is the 21st. If you’re saying to yourself, “What does he mean? They’re both the same thing!”, you would say the answer is the 28th.

See the problem?

There’s a very simple solution to the proper usage of the word “next” when dealing with relative dates.

Don’t use it. Never. Kinda like the word “bling”. Don’t try to use it in a sentence. It’s too ambiguous, too confusing, and totally unnecessary.

Here’s the real answer. (Remember, you heard it here first.)

This  Friday is the 21st. A week from this Friday  is the 28th. Next  Friday is undefined, just like dividing by zero. It just doesn’t exist.

See? Nothing hard about that.

Nobody is ever confused about “this”. It’s always the next one coming up. It’s the word “next” that they have a hard time with. But once you’ve established what “this” is, it’s only a small step to define “a week from this”.

No ambiguity. No confusion.

Sheesh, do I have to explain everything  to you people?

And you thought I was going to talk about taxes today, didn’t you?

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