Sunday, April 29, 2012

Next Police

There's probably too much time devoted on the internet to correcting grammar, but I think it's important that I join the fray now. I only do this because I think it's important. A man must know when to pick his battles (in bars, major world wars, or disputes over toilet seats) and when to pick his nose (stoplights), and this is a battle-picking time.

I take issue with how loosely the word "next" is thrown around. Sure, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is. I'm not against "next" in all circumstances. But all too often, it is confused with "this." That's perfectly fine in some circumstances. For example, if you approach me in a bar and say, "What are you getting for your next round? It's on me!," I promise I won't be offended. Partially because you are buying me a drink, but mainly because there's no risk of confusion. You're offering to buy me a drink in the near future. God bless you, and I will toast you for it.

The problem arises when "next" can be ambiguous. This comes up because I was driving and someone told me to "Take the next exit." I asked for clarification.

"When you say 'next exit,' do you mean 'this exit,' or do you mean 'next exit?' "

Look at that! Say that out loud, especially if you're in a public place. Doesn't that sound crazy*?That's an absurd thing to have to ask. I had to ask someone if he meant what he said, or if he meant what he did not say! And if he were to reply "no," could he possibly have meant "yes?" Obviously, this confusion needs to come to an end.
*It does even more so if you shout it by yourself

Please be precise. "This" refers to the immediate object in question (OIQ*); "next" refers to the object that follows the current OIQ.
*Say this out loud, too. It's fun.

See you next time!

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