The meaning of the word "next"

Say today is Sunday, and I refer to “next Saturday”. What is the first meaning that crosses your mind: 6 days from now, or 13 days from now?

In my ideal world, it would unambiguously mean 13 days from now, so I suppose that is what first crosses my mind.

In other words, for me, “this [weekday]” always means the very closest [weekday] regardless of any perceived week boundaries (does the week start on Sunday or Monday? There’s another potential source of confusion.), and “next [weekday]” always means a week from the very closest [weekday].

But in the real world, I know that not everyone’s usage is the same, and so I would always ask for clarification, especially in highly ambiguous circumstances like your hypothetical one. Also, I would always clarify my own usage by saying either “this coming Saturday” or “not this Saturday, but the next one”.

Why would it be ideal for “next” not to really mean “next”?

Usage here generally means that “next” refers to the ocurrence in the next week, and “this” refers to the occurence in the current week.

Today it’s Thursday 8 June:

  • “next” Tuesday will be 5 days’ time on Tuesday 13 June
  • “this” Saturday will be in 2 days’ time on Saturday 10 June
  • “next” Saturday will be in 9 days’ time on Saturday 17 June

I take it to mean “thirteen days from now”

but I always clarify because everyone has different meanings. six days from now would be THIS Saturday or this coming saturday and yesterday would be this past saturday.

I suppose it’s because the system I advocate allows one to unambiguously refer to any day within the next 13 days using only the words “this” and “next”, which is very efficient. If today is Sunday and “next Saturday” means 6 days from now, then how would you refer to 13 days from now? You’d have to resort to a longer expression.

I just checked the OED’s entry on “next”, and it points out the ambiguity in this context:

That strikes me as a very succinct way to pinpoint the ambiguity as well as show the rationale behind each meaning: under my system, it is the current week (rather than the current day) that is the implicit reference point.

And how do you know when the next week starts? Is it on Sunday or on Monday?

In the OP’s example, I’d think 6 days’ time. However, if they’d said “next Monday”, I’d think 8 days’ time.

Depending on the context, “this Saturday” could mean yesterday, not 6 days’ time.

sundog’s OED quote does indeed sum up the confusion succinctly. I always clarify these things by saying explicitly “6 day’s time” or whatever, to make sure I’m understood.

I would concur with Cunctator and when the week starts doesn’t seem to matter. If it is Thursday then ‘this Sunday’ means the the nearest Sunday. Next Sunday means the week after.

If it is Monday then the same holds true.

One thing America lacks is the very useful term of "fortnight’. “I will meet you in a fortnight” saves many words. “I will see you Friday fortnight” means I will see you 2 Fridays from now.

America take the word fortnight, embrace it, use it. It is a good word.

What I usually say is:

“This past Saturday” to mean the Saturday just past (of course!)
“This coming Saturday” to refer to the upcoming Saturday.
“Next Saturday” would then mean the Saturday occuring in the next week.

I’ve also heard (and used a couple of times), the phrase “Saturday week,” meaning a week after the soonest Saturday.

To me it would definitely mean 6 days from now. But I rarely use the expression “next Saturday” for this reason: I usually say “this coming Saturday” or else, if it is more than one week from now, I give the date or I say “two Saturdays from now.”

That’s how I’ve always used it.

When I say “next Saturday” I mean the next Saturday that we will be experiencing.

If I mean to say the Saturday after that one, I’ll say something like “neeeeext Saturday”, with much flailing about of my hands to indicate that we’re jumping over a Saturday and moving on to the one beyond it.

I would mean the next occurence of a saturday. Today being thursday, that is in two days, although I would be more likely to just say this saturday. If someone else said it and wasn’t specific as to what date they meant, I would ask them to clarify.

Weeks are considered to start on a Monday.

I’d interpret it as the next Saturday we’d hit, being the one six days later. The Saturday that follows would then be “A week from Saturday.” However, if you were to say it after say, Monday, I’d think you meant the one the week after too, since clearly a Saturday in the same week would then be “This Saturday,” and I’d wish you’d said a week from Saturday to be clear.

Frankly, unless I’m making the statement on a Saturday or Sunday, I don’t think I say Next Saturday myself, but use This and A Week From exclusively.

Is that how your calendars look?

My calendar in lotus notes starts on monday, with saturday/sunday jammed in the same size column as each of the weekdays.

Yes

In the OP’s example, I would mean thirteen days from now. I clarify it, though, as SurrenderDorothy does, because I don’t want people to be confused.