What’s next?

9 May

A reoccurring problem I have, and occasional conversation about, is the indeterminacy of the word next. It seems straightforward enough. Here is the definition from a dictionary.

next |nekst|
adjective
1 (of a time or season) coming immediately after the time of writing or speaking : we’ll go next year | next week’s parade.
• (of a day of the week) nearest (or the nearest but one) after the present : not this Wednesday, next Wednesday | [ postpositive ] on Monday next.
• (of an event or occasion) occurring directly in time after the present or most recent one, without anything of the same kind intervening : the next election | next time I’ll bring a hat.
2 coming immediately after the present one in order or space : the woman in the next room | the next chapter | who’s next?
• coming immediately after the present one in rank : building materials were next in importance.
adverb
on the first or soonest occasion after the present; immediately afterward : wondering what would happen next | next, I heard the sound of voices.
• [with superlative ] following in the specified order : Joe was the next oldest after Martin.
noun
the next person or thing : one moment he wasn’t there, the next he was | the week after next.
preposition archaic
next to : he plodded along next him.
PHRASES
next in line immediately below the present holder of a position in order of succession : he is next in line to the throne.
next to 1 in or into a position immediately to one side of; beside : we sat next to each other. 2 following in order or importance : next to buying a whole new wardrobe, nothing lifts the spirits quite like a new hairdo! 3 almost : Charles knew next to nothing about farming. 4 in comparison with : next to her I felt like a fraud.
the next world (according to some religious beliefs) the place where one goes after death.
what next an expression of surprise or amazement.
ORIGIN Old English nēhsta [nearest,] superlative of nēah [nigh] ; compare with Dutch naast and German nächste.

In computer programming there are segments of code called loops, and in the language called BASIC, they are called up for-next loops. An example of code would look something like the following (I have not written BASIC in decades, so this may not be exactly  syntactically correct).

10    For I = 1 to 10
20    Print I
30    Next I
40     End

This code would print out the numbers one through 10.

My problem with the word next is that in computer code if you stated, “turn right at the next street.” Whichever street immediately came up, you would turn right. In real life, if you are 5 yards from the street and your wife tells you to turn right at the next street, and you turn right she will snap at you saying,  “I said the next street not this street!” Now if you were a quarter of a mile away and was told to turn right at the next street, you’d be expected to turn right at that street, not drive through it and go on to the following street. There is some poorly defined distance where the immediately upcoming street is “this street” but not the “next street.” Once you go beyond that point  this street is the next street or the phrase  “this street” really should be “this upcoming street” because “the street” doesn’t make any sense. Confused?

It’s not just streets it’s also days. If it is Monday and I tell you next Tuesday, that really means a week from tomorrow, probably, not the next day-which by the way is not Wednesday but would be Tuesday. If it’s the previous Tuesday and I tell you next Tuesday, then it’s a week away. OK, so which day does next Tuesday become a week from the upcoming Tuesday as opposed to the immediately upcoming Tuesday?

The world may never know-Sort of like how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

By the way the comment section actually does work.

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