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Marketplace Music And The Next Weekend Debate

Who picks the music on Marketplace? I listen to two radio stations: the independent and kick-ass KEXP, and our local NPR affiliate. Curiously, I often hear the same bands on each: Death Cab For Cutie, Franz Ferdinand, Yo La Tango, Stereophonic. KEXP plays this stuff 'round the clock, but I also here it wedged between stories on NPR's otherwise staid Marketplace, and I often find myself wondering "who decides to follow up a story about the AARP's position on social security with a clip from The Get Up Kids?"

I went to the Marketplace Homepage to send them an inquiring email, but discovered that I didn't have to: they are so proud of their tuneage that "LIKE THE MUSIC ON MARKETPLACE?" is the very first question they tackle in their Special Features section. A link takes you to Jane's Music Blog, featuring "notes from the show's director on what gets played and why, who is that band you heard on yesterday's show, and ... the connection between that story on global politics and the Massive Attack song that followed it."

Though the blog isn't updated very regularly, the "About Jane" on its side told me that the songs are selected by one Jane Lindholm, Marketplace producer, world traveller, and -- apparently -- fan of the Sneaker Pimps.

When does "next weekend" start? A friend and I were speaking on a Sunday, and made some vague plans to get together on the next weekend. The following day I wrote him an email and officially proposed that we get together "next weekend."

"Sorry, " he replied. "I'll be out of town next weekend."

"Wha-?" said I. "We just discussed this yesterday, and you said next weekend worked fine."

"I said this weekend worked fine."

"No, I distinctly remember you saying 'next weekend'."

"Well, I did say 'next weekend', but that was on a Sunday," he explained. "Now it's Monday, so yesterday's 'next weekend' is today's 'this weekend,' and 'next weekend' is the weekend after. Didn't you know that's how it worked?"

I did not know that's how it worked.

I always thought that "this weekend" referred to the weekend you were either in or chronologically closest to, and "next weekend" referred to the weekend that followed it. So on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday morning, "this weekend" meant the previous weekend (as in, "I had a good time this weekend") and "next weekend" meant the upcoming weekend; from 12:01 pm Wednesday to 11:59 pm Sunday, "this weekend" meant the upcoming weekend (or the one you were currently in) and "next weekend" meant the one thereafter.

I thought I'd get a majority opinion on this, so I posted the following to an online forum I frequent:

"This" weekend vs. "next" weekend debate

Today is a Friday. If I said "I'm going to eat 350 pickles next weekend," what days would you think I talking about: tomorrow (and the following day) or a week from tomorrow (and the following day)?

What about this. On a Tuesday I say "Let's you and I have sex next weekend." Am I talking about: five days from now (and the following day) or 12 days from now (and the following day)?

Bonus question: at what point in time does "next weekend" become "this weekend"?

As it turned out, there was no debate: every person said "a week from tomorrow" for the first and "12 days" for the second. Answer to the bonus question: A second after midnight on Monday morning.

The best clarification offered was "'This weekend' always means 'this week's end'; 'next weekend' always means 'next week's end'." But it looks like I'm not entirely alone in my confusion. Over on this page, a number of folks say that "this weekend" v. "next weekend" isn't as cut-and-dried as some people make it seem. And as one person points out, the confusion isn't limited to time. How many times have you been giving directions to your spouse or partner while on the road, and resorted to the cumbersome locution "not-at-this-light-but-the-next-light" when telling him where to turn, knowing that just saying "next light" might result in a wrong turn and a subsequent argument about semantics?

Posted on April 15, 2005 to Research Day


Here's the deal (in the version of English that I learned, anyway): any time between Monday and Friday, "this weekend" and "next weekend" are SYNONYMOUS, meaning the weekend looming one to five days in the future. At some vague time on Friday, "next weekend" starts meaning the following one. It is only during a weekend that the two phrases have clearly different meanings. Best practice: don't ever use the term "this weekend" unless it's Saturday. (Sunday, you're too hung over to be able to make sense out of either phrase.) And don't ever use "next weekend". Period. Your survey above clearly shows that too many people have a completely wrong idea about its meaning.

Posted by: Doug L. on April 17, 2005 12:22 PM

My ex and I had the "this weekend/next weekend" debate many times. She also constantly mixed up the pronunciations of "beer" and "bear."

I'm right. Again.

Posted by: Uncle mike on April 17, 2005 12:38 PM

I'm more or less with Doug, but I'd put the cut-off Thursday or so:
Sat & Sun: this = current weekend; next = coming weekend.
Mon-Wed: this = next = coming;
Thu-Fri: this = the imminent weekend; next = probably the one after that, but worth clarifying.

The problem is that it's really a matter of context: "this weekend I'm staying bed Saturday, but next weekend I'm not getting up Sunday" makes sense on Friday, but on Monday you'd have to think about it (bacause this = next on Monday).

The other thing is that your friend sounds like a bit of chump for not making clear what days he was talking about. Ask him what he would have done if your conversation was between 11:55 pm Sunday and 12:05 am Monday.

He probably doesn't think "that's not my dog" is funny, either.

Posted by: Dave on April 17, 2005 2:59 PM

there is allways "last weekend" and the ever confusing "this weekend last" .. a gazillion other phrazes .. but doug is absolutely on the dot on this one ..

i have actually given up on naming the days .. even monday, tuesday etc are too damn confusing to people .. so .. i just use dates now ..

so .. in answer to your survey .. you should say "i will eat 350 picles and then i am going to make sweet love to you on saturday, the 23rd of April, 2005"

Posted by: lee on April 17, 2005 4:34 PM

I think you have officially run dry of things to write about.

Posted by: The Man From Guam on April 17, 2005 6:24 PM

That's an awful lot of pickles.

I'm guessing that you will want to take the second Monday coming off, as you will probably be ill.

Posted by: J on April 17, 2005 6:48 PM

I've always thought of it as "this coming weekend" (this weekend) and "the weekend after this coming weekend" (next weekend). Of course, that does make things confusing if it happens to be the weekend when you're doing the calculating.

And what about the fact that the week technically begins on Sunday? If "this weekend" means "this week's end" and you say "Let's run around town naked this weekend," doesn't that mean you'd be getting nekkid in six days? I mention this because of the unnamed friend in the original post who said "next weekend" on Sunday to, in fact, refer to "this weekend."

And it might be interesting to note that this whole "this" vs. "next" confusion is not limited to English. In Korean, at least, I'm always asking for clarification when someone tells me to turn at "the next light" (daeum sinhodeung). I'm betting that the same thing happens in a lot of other languages too.

Posted by: Charles on April 17, 2005 7:16 PM

I think you have officially run dry of things to write about.

Are you kidding? I haven't even told you about the battery-powered kitchen mag- uh, wait, yes I did.

Posted by: Matthew on April 17, 2005 7:58 PM

They did a piece on censorship in radio -- about how they weren't allowed to play songs with bad words or say any bad words on the radio before a certain hour, and they followed it up with the entirely instrumental "Fuck this Shit," by Belle and Sebastian. I laughed so hard I spit whatever tytola I was drinking at the time all over the dash.

(See? I tried. It still sounds weird, though.)

Posted by: mayinwinter on April 17, 2005 9:29 PM

I tend to use "this coming weekend" and "this past weekend" during the week, and "next weekend" when it's currently a weekend.

I agree with the consensus about how to interpret "this" and "next", but I don't think I use either one that way. I might say "the weekend after this coming", but I'm not sure. It certainly sounds foolish. Better to just live in the now.

Posted by: Klaas on April 18, 2005 6:32 AM

In our house we've given up on the this, next weekend when there's any chance that there might be a scheduling conflict. Now it's always a march to the Grand Calendar of Doom, to consult the stars to see if a plan is auspicious or not!

All plans must be prefaced with a day of the week and the calendar date and Doug mentioned above.

Not mentioned was the need to add appropriate bribes and sacrifices to the Keeper of the Calendar, if one wants to alter the Great List in any way!

Posted by: Cedrictheblack on April 18, 2005 7:28 AM

I am surprised to be the first one to mention the best way to clarify: Use the Southern method. If today is Tuesday and you are referring to a weekend day, say "Saturday" or "Saturdayweek". Saturday is in 4 days Saturdayweek is 11 days away. No confusion. (This also works for any other day, not sepcifically for weekends)

Posted by: WindyLou on April 18, 2005 7:57 AM

On the highway, "NEXT EXIT" always means the very next exit, even if it's only 100 feet away. You only see "This Exit!" on billboards, i.e., in situations where people are being paid to lie to you.

Posted by: Jon on April 18, 2005 7:59 AM

If it's Sunday and someone asks me to do something next weekend, I assume that we're talking about 5 or 6 days from today. As Sunday is still this weekend, as this is still the present tense.

For pedantics it's always best to say the date of the weekend, i.e. 'Are you free next weekend, next weekend being the 23rd, you pedantic ass?'

Posted by: mathew on April 18, 2005 8:54 AM

Another aspect to this is introduced by email. The person writing and the person reading are separated by some unknown amount of time. So expresssions like "today" and "next Tuesday" can become unexpectedly vague.

So when I write emails with dates in them, I almost always use Mathew's PA formulation: "I'll be in town next Wednesday 20-Apr, will you have the pickles by then?"

Posted by: Doug J. on April 18, 2005 9:30 AM

"This weekend was great." Used Monday through Friday to refer to the preceeding Saturday/Sunday unless used as a closing statement with someone with whom you are conversing on a Sunday unless it is Saturday and you are about to begin an early work week by going in on Sunday. Moving on...

"This weekend was going to be great..." can be used any day of the week and typically means the first weekend that has not yet happened but means something came up that has changed plans, ruining the weekend. Moving on...

"Next week we should..." means... Skip it. Moving on...

My, this is the third time I've come across this topic this week ("this week" equaling today and the previous six days.) :) For me, "this weekend" is easy to decipher in conversation due to verb tenses. This weekend can mean either the weekend just passed or the weekend approaching. "Next weekend" is always the next weekend unless "this weekend" has been used to refer to the weekend immediately passed. Also, using "last weekend", "this weekend" and "next weekend" help in conversation, especially with "the following weekend" tossed in four good measure. Those are four separate weekends, my friends.

But "next weekend" used on a Monday without having used "last weekend" to refer to the two days immediately prior cannot refer to the weekend occurring 12-13 days from now because that must be clarified with the more distinctive "the following weekend". But a close friend? Drop 'im. I wouldn't deal with such a maroon. ;)

Argh, it's a mess. I love English. Still, with close friends this shouldn't be an issue. I had a discussion about this awhile ago in how friends use these timely phrases. Getting to know someone "this/next/last weekend" can be an interpersonal dynamic that is customized to the person with whom you are conversing. And this isn't just my personal quirk, we found many of us used different distinctions with differing friends, too. And yet the closer one was with a friend, the more meanings a "this weekend" could have. And this is probably due to how much time you spend with this friend. The confusion of a "this weekend" between close friends shows that the relationship is dying or has not been kept up to speed. IOW, two friends who were once close are now drifting apart a little. Or some such muckery.

Here's another beef with the weekend, the American calendar. The weekend is obviously Saturday and Sunday, right? For those who include Friday, well, they consider the "weekend" Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And I have yet to meet anyone who thinks the weekend is only Friday and Saturday (but not Sunday), so why does an American (North American?) calendar's week begin with Sunday? Fer cryin' out loud weeks begin on Mondays, making weekends end on Sunday.

Oh, I see from the previous comments I skipped Doug L's comment. Yup, "this" and "next" are synonymous Mondays through Fridays so long as "last" and "following" are mixed in... Okay, I must stop vomiting words.

Posted by: jekyll on April 18, 2005 10:15 AM

As someone who considers herself to be forgetful and unreliable due to forgetfulness, I can't conceive of a possible world in which I would be making plans with someone for so far in advance as next weekend.

Nevertheless, I am also rather anal, so I would most likely be overly conscientious about clarifying exactly which weekend "next weekend" was and I wouldn't leave it to the powers of assumptions to let everyone walk away with different conceptions about "next weekend".

The phrase "Hey, let's do something next weekend" is a misunderstanding waiting to happen.

Posted by: fern on April 18, 2005 12:00 PM

or .. one can play the "spontaneous" card and just show up on a saturday .. and say "hey .. i just ate 350 piccles .. now put out or get out!"

Posted by: lee on April 18, 2005 3:12 PM

OMG I think I do the whole 'not this light, but the one after that' bit EVERY time I am giving directions while I'm in the car!!

I hate that semantic fight, and they always take it the oposite of what you meant anyway, Murphy and His Law still being alive and well and all.

Posted by: David Mercer on April 18, 2005 9:37 PM

'This weekend' == the weekend you are currently in or if it's not the weekend, the next coming weekend.

'Next weekend' == the weekend after 'this weekend'.

It's that simple.

However, past tense is more confusing. I think it SHOULD work the same way going backward, but it's even easier to screw up. "I had a great time having sex with pickles this weekend." vs "I had a great time having sex with pickles last weekend."

'Had' clearly implies past tense so there's no confusion there, but if it's late in the week, people start to say 'last' weekend when they really mean 'this' weekend.

(Though, 'this last weekend' is just extra verbage as it's the same as 'this weekend')

At this point I think it's important to link to an excerpt from the late, great, Douglas Adams... http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~param/quotes/guide.html

Posted by: Caleb on April 19, 2005 11:09 AM
What about this. On a Tuesday I say "Let's you and I have sex next weekend."

I am immediately introducing that into my lexicon, but I will always be prefacing it with a jaunty "Say!" as in, "Say! Let's you and I have sex next weekend."

The pickles, not so much.

Posted by: Elsa on April 19, 2005 8:21 PM

So my fiancee told me that we're getting married this weekend. Does that mean in three days or in ten days? If I screw this up I'm in big trouble!

Oh, and she's German so is there any international dateline / time zone thing I have to worry about?

Posted by: Duane on April 20, 2005 9:08 AM

Your initial confusion and the question example you pose are different animals. The latter is easy and everyone answered it correctly.

In the former, you state that you think "this weekend" means the closest weekend to you --but that is only true when saying "I had a great time this weekend." When using the _past_ tense for "this weekend," you mean the one that just passed. Duh!

When speaking in the present or future tense, "this weekend" is the one that is approaching. And thus "next weekend" is the one after this.

People are mistaking tense for time.

Posted by: Sarah on April 20, 2005 4:53 PM

I have similar discussions with employees.
We can never seem to get the "next/this" thing right.
So funny.

Posted by: Nicole on April 21, 2005 6:42 AM

Add the word "the" and it all changes. Or does it?

Does "I will mow the lawn next weekend" mean the same as "I will mow the lawn the next weekend?"

Put "next" into an entirely different sequential context and the ambiguity disappears. Imagine Jim is dealing out a deck of shuffled cards face up, one at a time. He says "I will pay you $1 when I deal the next ace." If he is going to pay you $1, you will have no confusion what to expect on the very next appearance of an ace. As soon as an ace appears, you both expect the payout. If he says this while an ace is presently showing, that fact is not relevant - it is the NEXT appearance that triggers the payout.

Transfer this all to month names and it also different. This is spring, 2005. What if I say I will fly to your city for a visit next spring (or winter, or summer.) It is all without question that I will see you in spring (or winter, or summer), 2006 - none of this other dodginess with the word next.

Of course this can all be easily settled with the dictionary which says next is "immediately adjacent." By strict definition "next weekend" is ALWAYS the one coming up soonest, just like the ace in the deck of cards.

Posted by: Michael on April 24, 2005 8:41 AM