Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I began this on a Thursday morning. I had just ordered the restart of a newspaper that has been on "vacation hold", with the first restarted issue to arrive in nine days' time, on the Saturday of next week. I would call that "Saturday week". The clerk who was responding told me that the paper would arrive "next Saturday". I resisted the temptation to say "No, the following Saturday".That highlights another cause for confusion between "Brits" and what those Brits would call "Yanks". By now, after more than fifty years in the US, I have learned that "Next (anyday)" doesn't mean literally the next Monday, Tuesday, etc., but is shorthand for (anyday) in next week.

In both cultures, there's no ambiguity when folk say "this (anyday)". So the very next Saturday is "this Saturday", or perhaps "this coming Saturday". Also clear is to give the date: "I'll be there on Saturday the 13th" avoids any ambiguity.

I wonder how many Brits have decided they were being "stood up" when an American friend who'd agreed to meet for lunch "next Friday" didn't show up? Or how many Americans visiting the UK appeared at a rendezvous seven days late? The sentimentalist in me feels sorry for those who fail to connect because of this misunderstanding. It is a less tragic happening than the unnecessary deaths of Romeo & Juliet, but equally illustrates the importance of timing.

Then again, the romantic in me (don't look so surprised!) imagines arriving solo, to find a beautiful maiden staring into her empty glass, deciding she never wants to see that other guy again, and I "seize the day"...

Something similar happened to me over forty years ago, when I first met Barbara--but that's another story...

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