Friday, October 02, 2009

a week (from) tomorrow; Wednesday week

I'm writing on the eve of High Lynneukah, the fourth day of Lynneukah this year. I know I've mentioned Lynneukah before here, but I've never properly explained it, and since I did so earlier today on Facebook, I thought I'd offer the same explanation here. After all, Lynneukah is orig. AmE:
  • Lynneukah ('The Joyous Festival of Lynne') is the name of the ritualistic marking of my birthday, over a number of days each (AmE) fall/(BrE&AmE) autumn.
  • It was named/founded in the 80s by an ex of mine who noted that I liked to string my birthday celebrations out for as long as possible.
  • It is the consecutive days in any year that include 3 October and involve some marking of my birthday--e.g. a card in the (BrE) post/(AmE) mail, a colleague buying me a drink, an email from a long-lost somebody who noticed it in their (AmE) datebook/(BrE) diary.
  • 3 October is referred to as High Lynneukah. (Also German Reunification day, but it was High Lynneukah first!)
  • Because the definition relies on consecutive days, you can't necessarily tell when it has started. On receipt of the first card, I declare it 'Lynneukah season' and then wait and see what the next few days bring. I typically know it's Lynneukah by day 3.
  • It's been as short as 5 days and as long as 12.
  • It is a sin to try to artificially prolong Lynneukah.
  • You don't have to know me or do anything for me to celebrate Lynneukah. The theme of the day/season is 'being nice to yourself'--so if anyone uses it as an excuse to sleep late or eat chocolate, that's great.
But if you'd like to use Lynneukah to be nice to someone else, then may I suggest a donation to Médecins Sans Frontières (known in the US as Doctors Without Borders)? I'll be making a birthday donation myself, but know that I often wait for an excuse (someone running a race or selling something or taking a collection) to donate to good causes that aren't my regular charities. So, I'm offering you an excuse to donate a little or a lot to a group that does a lot of good in a lot of very difficult situations.
If you're in the US, you can click here to make a donation.

If you're in the UK, you can click here to make a donation (and GiftAid it, if you qualify).

If you're anywhere else, you can see if there's a MSF fundraising branch in your country, but there's nothing (other than the risk of credit card fees for foreign payments) to stop you using the above donation sites.

That said (and thanks for reading through to here), I was trying to think of a birthday-themed topic to blog about, but we talked about the spanking rituals last year, and I can't think of anything else at the moment (requests for next year are welcome). But birthdays are about time, so here's a time-related topic, spurred on by this email from Gordon:
I just came across this phrase, written by a Brit: a week tomorrow. I've never heard it that way, but I interpreted it to mean "a week from tomorrow". It was used multiple times, so I know it wasn't a typo.

A week tomorrow, on October 1st, a book is going to be published. This is not news. Lots of books will be published a week tomorrow, and indeed a week after that (and, for that matter, tomorrow). [source]
What's the story here?
Indeed, that's a very natural way to say (AmE and BrE) a week from tomorrow in BrE, as in these quotations from the Guardian's website:
...a royal ceremonial funeral, which will be held a week tomorrow at Westminster Abbey.

... with each of the three contenders wanting to chalk up a good result ahead of the key South Carolina Democratic primary a week tomorrow.

Luka Modric broke a leg in a Premier League match against Birmingham City last Saturday, ruling him out of World Cup qualifier against England at Wembley a week tomorrow.
BrE can do the same kind of thing for other days than tomorrow (today, yesterday). Where using the name of a day of the week, one needs on, as in the following examples:
A week on Wednesday one of JMW Turner's finest paintings, Pope's Villa at Twickenham, will be auctioned at Sotheby's.

John McCain is expected to make his VP announcement a week on Friday

Where you read a week tomorrow in AmE sources, it generally refers to the past (all examples from the Boston Globe's site):
I've been married a week tomorrow and I am on cloud 9 with my husband!

It will be a week tomorrow and I am still waiting for the car dealership to get approval from CARS.gov.
In these cases, we can read this as 'tomorrow, it will be a week since X happened'. This is no good in BrE, as far as I can tell (web searches and consulting Better Half) logically possible, but perhaps not as likely in BrE--you'd have to probably say I've been married for a week tomorrow. (I could say either in my AmE dialect.)

You can use either of these phrases with other lengths of time, but the longer the time, the less likely you are to find the BrE future-facing version. There are at least hundreds (I haven't gone through and discounted all the irrelevant ones) of cases of a week tomorrow on the Guardian site and only one of a year tomorrow.

Now, we must note that the BrE future-facing a week tomorrow and the past-facing AmE a week tomorrow have different prosody (intonation). If you've read this blog before, you know that (BrE) I'm rubbish at phonology, so I won't try to draw any intonation curves or anything. I'm so rubbish at phonology that I might even be wrong about there being a difference, since when I try to recreate it in my head, they end up sounding like a hundred different things and like each other. But bidialectal or prosodically-gifted folks out there are welcome to weigh in on that.

On a related topic (but certainly not exhausting week differences across the dialects), I'd like to point out day-week combinations in BrE, as in the Elvis Costello song 'Wednesday Week', which starts:


The movies save on conversation
And the TV saves on sight
We met in a head-on collision
So I would say our chances would be slight
You can lead and I will follow
See us dancing cheek to cheek
You'll remember me tomorrow
But you won't give a damn by Wednesday Week
Now, ([orig.] AmE) back in the day, when I was a young thing snubbing (AmE) pop in order to listen to British (BrE) pop, I enjoyed this song very much, not appreciating that I didn't understand it. I thought Wednesday week was just a nonsense date for a song, like the 12th of Never. Now I know that it's a BrE way of saying 'a week from Wednesday'.

Thus concludes this instal(l)ment of my continuing public service of explaining British song lyrics to mistaken Americans like me who (in the 1980s) thought they were cool for (orig. AmE) 'getting' British music.

Happy Lynneukah to all, and to all a good night!

46 comments:

N said...

Hmm... I'm British, but "I've been married a week tomorrow ..." sounds fine to me (although it does look a bit odd written down) and I'm sure I've said similar things hundreds of times.

I would however stress "week" when saying it, since it seems to emphasise the fact it's been a whole week since the event happened. I wouldn't give "a week tomorrow" any special stress when it refers to "next week" though, since it's just a reference to a point in time that doesn't have its own word, like "the day after tomorrow" or "tomorrow afternoon".

RWMG said...

"I've been married a week tomorrow" does sound odd to my Southern English ears, but not because of the backward time reference. I'm pretty sure I'd say (if the situation arose) "I'll've been married a week tomorrow."

lynneguist said...

I've made some adjustments to the post (see near the struck-through bits)--thanks for the feedback!

NFAH said...

I have not heard "a week tomorrow" in 3 years in the UK or visits prior to moving here, but I hear "tomorrow week" all the time and have started using it since it's so much easier than saying "a week from tomorrow"

townmouse said...

There's also the wonderfully old-fashioned 'this day fortnight' (it doesn't seem to work for a week hence) which seems to crop up more up here in Scotland than down south.

I like phrases like 'a week tomorrow' because they're explicit, whereas I've always found phrases like 'next Wednesday' to be confusing. For instance, if speaking on a Tuesday, I always think 'next Wednesday' should mean the next day but most people seem to use it to mean the Wednesday after that - the nearer Wednesday being called 'this Wednesday'. I'm never sure at what point in the week 'next Wednesday' becomes 'this Wednesday', nor when 'this Wednesday' becomes 'last Wednesday'.
(sorry, that last bit was probably off topic as I expect I'd be confused on this matter on either side of the Atlantic - it's easily done)

Oh, and happy Lynnekuh - I suspect posting about it on your blog is a good way to prolong the festivities, although obviously that's not the reason you are doing it at all!

Andy JS said...

Fortnight is an interesting word. It's used all the time where I live in England but I think I read somewhere Americans don't use it.

John said...

How about "this Wednesday week"? That seems more BrE to me.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard 'this Wednesday week', and would have a lot of difficulty figuring out what it meant (for a similar reason to that so brilliantly described by Townmouse).

Fortnight can be used naturally in both 'tomorrow fornight' and 'a fortnight tomorrow', but in my (Southern) dialect it wouldn't work as a 'this day' construction - that would have to be 'a fortnight today'.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Happy Birthday and I hope you have a lovely Lynneukah!

I think I (BrE) would probably use the future perfect tense: "I shall have been married a week tomorrow", but I would also use the word (and I cannot for the life of me think what part of speech it is) "come" in a sentence like that: "I shall have been married a year come Thursday".

Jessica Horst said...

Personally, I can't stand things like "see you Wednesday week." It's almost like the Brits are trying to talk in TextSpeak. Such terms still throw us off 2+ years since moving here.

David Young said...

I was thinking about commenting on the "this Wednesday"/"next Wednesday" problem when townmouse saved me the trouble by stating my sentiments exactly.

I (British) might well say both "term starts a week tomorrow" (or "a fortnight today" or whatever) and "I'll have been married 13 years come August".

One thing I wouldn't say, but which I think would be said in AmE, is "There will be a sale August 7th" - I'd always say "on August 7th".

Shaun Clarkson said...

I think from my own experience that the meaning of this Wednesday / next Wednesday is (usually) this Wednesday is the Wednesday of this week, next Wednesday is next week. So on Monday, this Wednesday is the day after tomorrow and next Wednesday is nine days off, whereas on Thursday this Wednesday means yesterday.

Julie said...

This is all pretty obscure to this Californian. These all read as archaic/poetic, except this one:
I've never seen or heard "this Wednesday week," so far as I can recall, and until now I would have found it incomprehensible.

Nor can I think of any non-literary situation where the word "shall" might escape my lips. Nor "fortnight," for that matter. Not even sure how to pronounce it.
"Come Tuesday" is just a bit archaic/poetic. One of my favorite songs is titled "Come Monday." Any use of "hence" or "whence" is also poetic.
If I saw "A week on Friday," I would read it as an error for "a week from Friday."

townmouse said...

Oh good, I'm glad I'm not the only one getting confused with this/next. I was beginning to think I had missed a memo...

@Julie - fortnight is a pretty prosaic word here in the UK and it's pronounced exactly as you might guess from the spelling (I was going to say prounounced exactly as it's spelled, but realised what a minefield I was about to step into with all these linguists about)

Andy J said...

Surely "But bidialectal or prosodically-gifted folks out there are welcome to weigh in on that" should read [folks(AmE)/people(BrE)].

Kevin said...

Tangentially --

Good on you, Lynne, for supporting Médecins Sans Frontières: an excellent cause!

I've been a little disappointed, all the same, to learn that MSF is known in the USA as "Doctors Without Borders": that anglicization not only detracts considerably IMHO from the internationalist spirit of the project (as if it's to be taken as read that Americans would, of course, never willingly donate to a "foreign-sounding" charity) but that anglicization of the organization's title also sounds faintly risible to British ears: doctors who have decided not to take in lodgers...

Solo said...

I say 'Wednesday week' and other such constructions all the time, but I'd never say 'this Wednesday week' because it would feel tautologous (sp?). If the aforementioned event were less than a week away, I'd simply say 'Wednesday'.

@Julie, I (20-something BrE) would very rarely use the word 'shall' either. I consider it an expression for the posh or aged [Sorry Mrs. Redboots!]. I'd be far more likely to say 'will' or a contraction thereof.

A very happy Lynnekuh to all of you! I shall celebrate tomorrow with cake. A big slab of cake from an overpriced goutmet cake establishment of my acquaintance. Feel free to join me.

@Kevin: I thought the fund was to procure boarders for doctors who felt themselves bereft of the company and supplementray income...

Roger Owen Green said...

Party on, Lynneguist!
This American thinks Doctors without Borders MEANT international, and that's the way I always heard it.
Had NEVER seen Wednesday week until this very post.

Kevin said...

Ah, Solo (or should I say @Solo..?), your post not only causes me to believe that we think (anent medics and their potential paying guests) on very similar lines but it also reminds me that I must surely, before too much longer, comment here upon the sudden and spectacular rise on this blog of the "vocative @".

But having, I fear, already digressed too much from the main topic at hand, I had probably best leave that until after the last day of Lynnekuh -- which I feel must surely still be, justifiably, in full swing.

Richard Sabey said...

@townmouse I find phrases like 'next Wednesday' not confusing at all, but precise. This of course does not prevent others using them in that different way that confuses you and misleads me.

"Next" refers to the soonest future one, just as "last" refers to the most recent past one. Simple.

To those who use "next" in such a way that it sometimes means not the next one (which you'd call "this") but the one after that, do you find you get lost following other people's directions? Perhaps other people get lost following yours!

@Jessica Your example "see you Wednesday week." is idiomatic here in England. "See you Wednesday" is a similar example. These phrases would be used in an informal context where it wouldn't surprise me if people omitted the "on". The day name used on its own like that as an adverb, with no "on" and no modifier such as "week", is used only informally. British journalists wouldn't write a sentence like this one, recently quoted on Language Log:

"Stunned colleagues Friday described veteran CBS News producer Joe Halderman—who was arrested outside the network’s West 57th Street offices Thursday in the alleged scheme to blackmail David Letterman—as a rogue [...]."

mollymooly said...

"I have been married a week tomorrow" -- this sentence sounds wrong wrong wrong even though I can't see any interpretation other than the intended one. A bit like Mrs Redboots, I could only say "I will have been married a week tomorrow". [Not "I shall", though "Shall I" is just about possible; have you posted on "shall/will" or has it only come up in comments, which I know you hate?]

"Xday week" is much commoner than "a week [on/from/-] Xday", as per NFAH.

"This day fortnight" is not archaic in Ireland, though "this day week" is much more common. What do non-Irish people say instead? I guess "next Xday" [where today is Xday] but that's just a guess. Also: I pronounce the first syllable of "fortnight" like "forty" rather than "fourteen", in spite of the etymology. I reverse some of Well's NORTH and FORCE vowel class categorisations; that's either specific to me or to Ireland or else a mistake in Wells' classification.

Regarding the ambiguity of "last/this/next Xday": I find "Xday of last/this/next week" is usually unambiguous, provided you agree on what day the week begins.

Matt said...

Fortnight is not widely used in the US (and sounds quite old fashioned to these American ears).

I have to agree with some of the previous posts that 'this Tuesday week' would be utterly incomprehensible and would require clarification.

Also, when referencing days of the week, 'this' would refer to a day in the current week, and 'next' refers to a day in the following week. Thus, if today were Tuesday, 'this Wednesday' would be tomorrow and 'next Wednesday' would be eight days from now.

Anonymous said...

I was always taught that "I shall..." is merely a statement about a future action, but "I will..." expresses resolution (as in the marriage service).

As for misunderstanding pop lyrics, I always thought "homecoming queen" in the Monkees' "Daydream Believer" was just a nonsense phrase until I discovered that it did have a meaning to Americans.

Kate (Derby, UK)

Solo said...

As far as I'm concerned, the first syllables of 'fortnight' 'forty' and fourteen' are so near as to be virtually indistinguishable.

I'm curious, have Americans got any time terms that we don't have over here? Now I think about it, I don't think I ever learned an equivalent of 'fortnight' in German or French, so perhaps it very much an English/British thing.
Why would that be? Are we just more greatly disposed towards two-weekly cycles of events?

My Canadian flatmate and fellow Councillor used to say bi-monthly to mean fortnightly, but the Council vetoed its use, because no one was entirely sure what he meant.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I grew up in coastal North Carolina with expressions like "Wednesday week" -- meaning a week from this coming Wednesday. Today is Monday; if I said "Wednesday week I'm going to France" -- well that would be clear. I imagine the usage is not limited to coastal N.C. in the U.S.

Cameron said...

I've (ScE) a feeling there may be a Scottish to English difference in the use of "next". I'm sure I remember reading a definition of "next" in an English-Scots dictionary as "next but one" (is THAT contruction used in AmE?). Anyway, to me "next Wednesday" is, as already described by previous posters, Wednesday of next week, regardless of whether it is in the future or past.

Oh, and surely the doctors would have to be not too highly literate to be confused between "borders" and "boarders"?

lynneguist said...

@Solo, bi-monthly is all I can think of, though when I was young and pedantic (as opposed to now, when I am not young) I used to insist that twice a month is 'semi-monthly' and 'bimonthly' should be every other month. But I'm afraid that as a 14-year-old pedant, I wasn't listened to much. Imagine if I'd had a blog!

mollymooly said...

OED s.v. next

sense A.5b:

Applied (without preceding the) to days of the week, with either the current day or (in later use; orig. Sc.) the current week as the implicit point of reference.
Thus (for example) next Friday may mean ‘the soonest Friday after today’ or ‘the Friday of the coming week’. The latter may be indicated contextually, e.g. by contrast with this, but it is not always clear which meaning is intended. Cf. sense A.10c.

**********************

sense A.10:
Of a time, season, etc.: immediately following in time; coming directly after the time of writing, speaking, etc.
In modern use, the next in senses A. 10a and A. 10c is capable of being construed as a postmodifying attributive adjective ...

sense A.10c:
Applied to days of the week, with either the current day or (more usually) the current week as the implicit point of reference. Cf. sense A. 5a.
In Sc. use sometimes contrasted with first.

Richard Sabey said...

But Lynne, bi- suggests twice, so bi-monthly should mean twice monthly...

lynneguist said...

Yes, but in my 14-year-old pedantry, I was adamant that there should be a 'bimonthly' and a 'semimonthly' and they should mean different things.

Teenage logic defies fact.

townmouse said...

You may have been thinking of the distinction between 'biennial' (once every two years) and 'biannual' (twice a year) perhaps? I don't know what the month equivalent would have been (bimenstrual?)

Ginger Yellow said...

"I used to insist that twice a month is 'semi-monthly' and 'bimonthly' should be every other month"

They are! Alternatively, you can use biweekly. I used to write for a bimonthly (as opposed to biweekly) publication, so I'm just as pedantic on this point.

Anonymous said...

The French equivalent for "fortnight" is, illogically "quinze jours" (15 days!).

Kate (Derby, UK)

Solo said...

This is precisely the issue we had with bi-monthly.

Andy J said...

I (BrE) readily understand next Wednesday to be 7 days after this Wednesday when speaking of the future, but when talking about the past, I would understand next to refer to the immediately following day of that name (because 'this' would make no sense, although possibly 'that' might). Example: 'On Monday he caught a chill and died the next Wednesday' would span just 3 days for me.

@Richard Sabey. I did raise the issue of prepositionless days in AmE in an email to Lynne some time ago but as it has now been raised here without appearing to be too off-topic, can anyone explain which is the older: the American or British usage?

Anonymous said...

Bimonthly can mean either twice a month, or every two months.

And, likewise, biweekly can mean every two weeks, or twice a week.

Also, every two weeks, and twice a month, do not mean the same thing.

Julie said...

@mollymooly: I don't know about elsewhere, but I would say: "(Tuesday)two weeks from today," or "three weeks from Wednesday," or another version of the same construction which counts forward from a day in the near future.

mollymooly said...

@Julie: sorry, my question was, 'what do non-Irish people say instead of "this day week"?'

biochemist said...

Mollymooly: I love your idea of 'Wednesday of last/this/next week'.
Speaking on a Sunday or Monday, I (BrE) might say 'this coming Wednesday' for this week, and 'in ten days' time' when I refer to the Wednesday in next week - I thought the latter was a well-known BrE approximation but several people have replied - 'but that's nine days away, not ten!' So I will try Mollymooly's system from now on.

Robin said...

I always think that "Next Wednesday" (or whatever) is ambiguous, so I always qualify it by saying "Not this Wednesday, but next Wednesday." So I might say, "My parents are coming to visit not this Wednesday, but next Wednesday." I like "Wednesday next" better, but I've never heard that construction before. (AmE here)

flatlander said...

The closest thing to "fortnight" in AmE, at least in budgetary contexts, is "pay period" -- as in "We spend $XX on gasoline each pay period." And then only if you get paid every two weeks (with some employers it's twice a month, some it's weekly, but "fortnightly" is pretty common).

Robbie said...

If someone talked to me about "pay periods" I would assume lengths of time of about a month. Not exactly a calendar month, because then they would just say "month" -- but perhaps four-weekly periods, or the nearest Friday to the end of the month, or similar.

I've never known anyone who got a regular wage at two-week intervals.

Anonymous said...

Further to biochemist and Robin:
'Wednesday of next week' and 'Wednesday of this week' work well, as does 'this Wednesday coming', meaning, obviously, the first Wednesday to happen.

dbanoff said...

Flatlander & Robbie -
When I was in the US Army (1968-1970) I was paid monthly. Since then, most of the jobs I've held have paid biweekly (26 paydays per year), including my current employment. I have had some which paid semimonthly (24 paydays per year).

Because of this variability, I would never assume that my Pay Periods were the same as my neighbor's.

ianeiloart said...

"you won't give a damn by Wednesday Week" - Elvis.

The Undertones also had a song called Wednesday Week, referring to the past… "Wednesday week - she loved me Wednesday week - never happened at all"

I wonder whether the reference to the past is more common in Irish English. I (BrE) am not sure when Wednesday Week would have been: A week ago on Wednesday? A week ago last Wednesday?

Paul @ Paul Hall said...

As regards quinze jours, quinzaine etc being illogical, it depends on your point of view. This is inclusive reckoning, as practised, for example, in musical scales: the *fifth* is the fifth degree of the diatonic scale *including* the root, though it's the fourth note after. Same when we say à huitaine, à quinzaine. Suppose it's the first of the month, so today fortnight is the 15th; the French expression simply reflects the total span, not the difference from today.