If someone said to you in conversation — “the other day” — how would you, by default, and with no other frame of time offered by the speaker, interpret that phrase in the context of time?

Does “the other day” mean “yesterday” or “two days ago” or “last week” or “less than a week” or something else — and would you ever ask for a more specific time and date stamping — or am I the only one who cares about precision in storytelling?

46 Comments

  1. Yes, carlene, it would have to mean under a year, I think. In fact, I think “the other day” requires one to assume it means younger than a week ago but older than yesterday. So I guess we’re in the 2-6 day range for “the other day” now?

  2. I’d say “the other day” refers to something that happened within the 2-6 day range.
    Here’s an example:
    “I was thinking about the upcoming elections the other day and wasn’t happy about the choices I had in the upcoming election because it seemed the same old people were going to win, just as they had in the other elections. That wasn’t going to stop me from splitting my ticket, but it was hard to ‘get fired up’ about anyone on the ballot.
    I feel better today after reading our congressman is the ranking Democrat on the House energy subcommittee. If the Democrats take back the House, it could mean good things for jobs and businesses — such as BP/Amoco, Big Steel, and corn frmers — in our Congressional district and our state.
    Maybe our guy will be appointed subcommittee chairman if everything lines up in his favor.
    I feel more enthusiastic about voting than I did the other day!”

  3. Hiya Nicola!
    Welp, I agree with you! 2-6 days seems reasonable but isn’t a day of the week simpler and cleaner to mention rather than “the other day?” Isn’t it better to use one word instead of three to identify one thing?
    😀
    I LOVE YOUR AVATAR! Perfect and beautiful and only slightly creepy!
    :mrgreen:
    Now… if you don’t want your name here linked to your WordPress.com website, you can go into your User Profile on your WordPress.com account and change the URL you wish to use.
    Or… maybe you’ll move your blog here and host it here with domain mapping like I did. I think you can do a direct import of your current blog via the Manage area of your Dashboard.
    Don’t forget to check out “My Comments” in your Dashboard. That feature is so cool!

  4. The day of the week is simpler IF you can remember! If you see a person a lot you may not remember the day you had that particular conversation. I tend to use “the other day” when I cannot because it is shorter than “I was talking to X was it Thursday or Friday now I can’t remember”.
    Thank you for the advice on WordPress – I am in the process of contemplating the move over – blogger has been screwed for the last week. I have no technical skills – certainly no CSS skills and am having to find suitable help as I wish to keep my template (and so do my readers judging from the comments). Alternatively I will just have to find a man who can.

  5. Hi Nicola!
    Okay, right! If you can’t remember the exact day then saying “the other day” gets you off the hook.
    😀
    I am not a CSS Guruji, either. You can, however, choose the Sandbox theme on WordPress.com, pay $15 to get access to custom CSS and then cut and paste your CSS into your template and go.
    I’m sure you must have a reader or two who would be willing to code that CSS for you. If not, try the WordPress.com forums for help.
    I know if you really get stuck WordPress.com support will offer you some pointers or tips.
    Podz is a good UK boy and he now works for WordPress.com and I know he will help you. His website is http://www.tamba2.org.uk/ and you can see from the body art and other body mods and other liberal etchings that he’s just our kind of lad — plus, he’s super-cranky on his blog and incredibly warm when he’s helping you — just the sort of perfect mix you seek in a friend.
    😉
    As for moving your blog — you should have is much easier than I did — you can just go in your WordPress.com Dashboard to Manage and Import and choose Blogger and everything will automagically move over here for you and you don’t lose any comments! That’s invaluable.
    Then, if everything looks good and you have a theme or a CSS styling you like — all you have to do is purchase domain mapping here and none of your fans will ever know you moved.
    I guarantee you WordPress.com is more stable and faster than Blogger. The code is better. The servers are newer. The people are faster to respond.
    Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

  6. Dave —
    Nice to see you here! Are you aware we moved from Media Temple to WordPress.com for hosting this blog? Be sure to read this article for the details and to send me/post any relevant info:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2006/10/26/welcome-to-wordpresscom/
    My question to your interesting answer is this: On November 11 why wouldn’t you just say, “I voted” instead of weighing it down with the obvious, “the other day?”
    Aren’t you adding three unnecessary words?
    Doesn’t “I voted” indicate it happened in the recent past?
    Isn’t everything that one tells someone else determined by verb tense as past, present or future? I can understand adding specificity to the verb clause, but to add “the other day” only creates is mishmash of thought and being that few find clear and meaningful.

  7. All I can say is – WordPress is AWESOME …….
    I have just transfered over my entire blog and I even managed to find a template and change the header image. Its not quite the same but that can be worked on. Thank you for your help and advice and encouragement.

  8. Dave!
    Why not just say:

    “Did you mail in your absentee ballot?”
    “Yes.”

    Why go on with a time reference if the only thing that matters is if the act were performed or not.
    Yes, there’s a lot going on here and now I must say two things to you:
    1. Login to your WordPress.com account and upload your Avatar in your User Preferences area. 96×96 in .PNG format works best for all the sizes as you’ll see.
    2. Check out your “My Comments” area in your Dashboard for WordPress.com. You’ll find neat stuff there if you’re using the same info to post here that you use to login to your WordPress.com account!

  9. Nicola!
    Yeah, WordPress does rock and WordPress.com rocks even more because you get the latest stable WordPress code and you don’t have to worry about databases or optimizing overhead or any of the niggling stuff that defeats each standalone WordPress blogmaster just a little bit every day.
    😀
    I’m glad to hear your import went well! I know the WordPress.com team worked really hard to make importing as easy as possible.
    Give us the URL of your WordPress.com site when you’re ready. Your current linked URL is pointing to Blogspot. I love that image of your parents!
    The bundled WordPress.com themes are great. They are vetted to work without any hassle. You can change them all day every day as you wish. Don’t forget to play around with Sidebar Widgets when you “customize” your theme. Lots of fun there! A “Text” widget lets you add what you wish including HTML code as you see fit.

  10. I am just so amazed it did it – no problems ……. quite scary – but WOW.
    Will change the URL thing when I am ready to go – until then I will mirror the two.
    Thank you for answering my next question before I had time to ask it – text widgets for HTML ……..

  11. Nicola!
    Yes, the real power of customization in the default themes is in the sidebar Widgets and new stuff gets added there all the time. You can add up to 9 Text Widgets so that should give you a good and fun range of things you can add to really make any theme your own thang.

  12. Dave —
    Cool! Don’t forget to make your “Display Name” in your WordPress.com User setup to reflect what you want to appear here in your articles.
    I love your example, Dave, and I’m thinking we should just do away with days of the week and just substitute “The Other Day…” instead of…. “Tuesday”… “Wednesday”… I mean they’re all “days” of our lives, right?

  13. Dave!
    Ah-ha! Now I see you are logging in here with your WordPress.com credentials because your Avatar placeholder is loading. Do you see how your name is all run together in lowercase? That’s the “display name” you need to fix in your User area.
    What are you seeing instead of the banner? A blue box? Nothing but white?
    I can see the banner fine here even with a reload on my Mac. Can you try SHIFT+RELOAD in your browser? Which browser are you using? Are you on Windows or Mac?

  14. Oh, and Dave, my feeling is your older browser and OS can’t handle CSS. That sure is disappointing, though, and I wish I had a cure for the problem.
    Are you running any image blocking or advertising blocking programs with your browser?
    If anyone else is having trouble seeing the header image here please let me know ASAP!

  15. Dave!
    Yay!
    You can also reply to the thread by clicking there to bring you back here.
    You should be able to login here as a Contributor, too. Check your Admin Bar in your browser for “My Dashboard” to see if this site is listed as accessible for you as an author.

  16. I am glad those trackbacks are now working properly – I assumed they were already doing so. Odd that they work in WordPress and not Blogger.
    Next dumb question – I take it one has to delve into the CSS to edit the text widgets ( cringes ) ?

  17. Hi Nicola!
    The trackbacks never showed up here! The links worked but the trackbacks never showed up below the comments as they do now. That’s how they’re supposed to look and feel and I’m glad they’re working now. I wonder if it was some kind of strange Blogger problem?
    No CSS needed for the Text Widgets. You just drag and drop them into the sidebar setup interface in the order you wish them to appear on your page. You can add the HTML code for images you want just as you did in Blogger. Just copy the HTML code and then paste it into the Text Widget. Some of the Widgets you can even re-name. I’ve done that for several of the Widgets I use here just to try to be fresh and offer some uniqueness. Click on the “text box” icon for the actual Text Widget you want to edit and then just type or paste stuff into that box that pops up and then click on the “X” to close the box and then “Save” the page and you’re done!

  18. To me ‘the other day’ represents 3 – 6 days ago for this reason…yesterday, is just that…the day before that is, ‘the day before yesterday’ and no other term exists to my knowledge for a day prior to that. By deduction therefore, ‘the other day’ cannot include ‘yesterday’ or ‘the day before yesterday’.
    With regards to naming the day as opposed to stating ‘the other day’ I believe it is used to infer that the day is irrelevant. For example: “The other day, I’m unsure which day exactly, I saw a monkey riding a bicycle down the road.” The main emphasis of the sentence is on the action that occurred on the day…not on which day it happened.
    Interesting post…thank you.

  19. Hi Nicola —
    I’m glad you’re in and I’m glad the email notification thing works.
    Yes, Blogger does have a lot of issues. They’re great for infrequent posts to beginner blogs but not really for doing anything that is furiously intense or in-depth.

  20. Hi David,
    I think people use “the other day” because they’ve forgotten exactly what day they are referring to when they say the phrase.
    Sometimes after I’ve had a busy week on the road in the morning and in the office in the afternoon, I forget exactly what day something occurred and will refer to it as “the other day.”
    If I need to know the exact date, I’ll find out by looking at the file. But, if I’m talking to a co-worker, I might just say something along the lines of “remember what happened the other day?”
    Minor clarification about our Congressman since there’s an Energy Committee. He’s the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

  21. Dave —
    I added your author information to your article. It is vital and important.
    I look forward to your impending articles! Just log in here and start writing them and save them as you wish then let me know when you have them ready for publication!

  22. Within 1 day = yesterday
    2 days = the previous day, the day before… etc
    3-7 days = are all other days
    7-14 days = last week
    14-21 = previous week
    etc… etc… etc..

  23. Getting in context if the speaker, if he/she would use “the other day” then it would mean he does not care about precision in time, but in the event he is about to tell or relate. Id doesn´t matter if it was a year ago, or 9 months or 10 days. He just does not care to remember because it is irrelevant.