If a meeting is “pushed back” or “moved up” in time, what exactly does that mean?
I have had this conversation with several people recently who did not understand what I meant when I used these phrases.
Normally, I would just automatically assume that they were wrong and I was correct, but this time I thought I should take their opinions into consideration and study the issue further before deciding they are wrong.
As I reflected on these phrases, I realize that I use them often and I had simply assumed that everyone else did, too.
For example, my softball game on Thursday of this week got pushed back to next week due to the fact that there was rain on Thursday night.
As an aside, I should mention that I am killing the ball in my city rec softball league this year and am hitting like .800. This has very little to do with grammar, but I thought it was important to mention it in this conversation. Frankly, I find it important to mention it in nearly every conversation I have lately.
“Hi Nick, how are you today?”
“Great, I’m batting .800 in slow pitch softball and I struck out three batters in a game a few weeks ago,” I might reply.
“Welcome to Burger King, what can I get you?”
“This Whopper looks interesting. Speaking of whoppers, let me tell you about this double to right field I had in co-ed softball last week. I’m batting .800 you know,” is another common conversation.
“Sir, do you know how fast you were going back there?”
“No I do not, but I do know how fast I was running when I scored from second on a single to right field last week. Did you know I am batting .800 this season? Don’t worry, we can’t steal bases in adult coed slow-pitch softball, we just steal the hearts of our fans. What’s that? No, no, I haven’t been drinking or doing anything like that. I’m an athlete you know…”
One thing that always helps me with my hitting in softball, is that I can’t really hit the ball all that far, so my hits generally fall in front of the outfielders who have pushed back too far.
And speaking of pushed back, here is what happens whenever I tell my wife or other people that an event has been pushed back.
“What does that mean?” the other person might say.
“It was going to be at 3, but now it will be at 5.”
“How can that be back? Wouldn’t back mean it should now be before 3, like at 2? 2 comes before 3, right?
“No, that would be moved up?”
“Wait, how is that up? Isn’t 5 up from 3?”
“Well, yes, kind of, but no! You see, 1 is moved up from 3, 5 is pushed back.”
“That makes no sense. How can you push time? Why are you saying push and move. Why isn’t one pulled? Why can’t they just be moved? Why do you have to be so difficult.”
This is where the conversation usually breaks down and I start thinking about softball again instead.
In my mind, if an event is at one time or day, and it is moved to a later time or day, then it is pushed back away from the present time. Moving something closer to the present time would be moving it up.
Similarly, if archeologists think something happened 200 years ago, but new discoveries show that the event actually happened 300 years ago, then in my mind their estimations were pushed back to 300 years ago because everything is being moved away from the center of the conversation and the universe, me.
To further muddy the waters, when the time changes twice a year, you spring ahead and fall back, which means that in the spring you move your clock from 2 to 3 and in the fall you move your clock from 2 to 1. It seems that moving the clock back from 2 to 1 would go against my argument, but it really fits with the logic since 2 is the center point of the conversation, and moving back away from it would be moving to 1.
My wife and I looked up this debate online and found countless other people having the same debate (which I suppose proves her point that the phrases I am using are too confusing).
My wife said I should just say something is “postponed” while my friend Kell thinks I could just say “delay.”
One article online suggested using the words “postpone” and “prepone” to differentiate. I had no idea that prepone was a word, but it apparently is. It means “to bring forward earlier in time.”
So, if a meeting is moved from 3 to 5 it is postponed and if it is moved from 3 to 1 it is preponed.
I see the logic behind this, but it brings up a few questions.
First and foremost, if the meeting time is not changed, does that mean it is poned?
At first glance, it apparently does not. The initial definitions I found for pone revolve around types of bread (cornpone, for example) and the person sitting to the right of the dealer in a card game.
It must be confusing to be playing poker and to ask the pone to pass the pone, but that’s probably an issue best left for another daydream.
I found a few other definitions I didn’t understand, but then one legal use of the word pone that has to do with putting a case in a certain court in England. In that use, pone may mean put, but it’s all very confusing and I don’t want to go to court in England just to find out.
My other main question with prepone is that it just sounds funny. It seems like something you do when you clean fish or harvest a deer.
“What are you doing honey?”
“Oh, I’m going to prepone this bass, and then we can eat.”
So what have we learned here?
First, while phrases like pushed back or moved up have some logical meaning, they are confusing and I should probably say pushed out, delayed, postponed, moved to a later time or moved to a certain time and I should not say “pushed back” or “moved up” when they can be avoided. Or, I should just quit changing the times of meetings so often.
Secondly, while preponed and postponed are a sensible answer to all of this and they may become popular in the future, I can’t bring myself to say preponed yet. I have too much pride and my brothers and friends may prepone me if they hear me talking all fancy like that.
Finally, and certainly most importantly, it’s best to remember that I hitting .800 in softball this season! I am crushing the ball!
Note: My friend Kell and I are starting a Grammar Club called Grammarizing America’s Grammar (GAG) and we hope to discuss more scintillating topics like this. If you have any opinions on moved back, pushed up, preponed or other items, feel free to comment below. Thanks!