Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This afternoon while in the car, my daughter and I were comparing notes about our schedules and performance commitments. (She is dancer and I am a pianist.) As we talked, we laughed about the way performers focus obsessively on upcoming performances, with so much adrenaline and so little time. When I asked about a show that she is scheduled to dance later this spring, she answered that since her company was in the throes of last minute preparations for a production set to open soon, no one was thinking about the May performance just yet.

After a lull in the conversation she made an amazing observation. She said, “I never realized before that we don’t have a synonym for the word “next.” We talked around the idea for a while and I concluded that she was probably correct. A quick check of some reference sources confirmed that while there are English words and expressions that loosely convey the idea of proximate order in a sequence, none carries quite the same meaning as “next.”

If Inuit peoples allegedly have so many different words to illustrate nuanced descriptions of “snow,” then why do we not have a few more words to talk the idea of “next” as our immediate focus or impending priority? For example, we don’t have a distinct word for a “next” that gives pleasure. Nor do we have a word for a “next” that makes us apprehensive. We don’t even have a word for “almost next” unless you really want to use the word “penultimate.” In my humble opinion, I think this would be a fruitful field of investigation for aspiring linguists and word mavens.

Posted via email from pkpiano's posterous

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