Scheduling idiom

When we talk about pushing a project deadline back, we’re actually talking about setting that project’s new deadline further forward in time. And when we talk about moving an appointment forward, we mean that we’re rearranging that appointment to happen sooner, so the new date will actually be further back in time than the original date.

I’m astonished that this doesn’t cause more confusion. I think it’s because although the idiom is confusing at face value, it’s the expression of a metaphor that most people are comfortable with.

When we talk about time in the context of scheduling, we’re really talking about our own relationship to the scheduled dates, and we’re imagining it in a spatial way. So, when you say that you’re moving the deadline back, you mean that you’re pushing it further away from you. And when you say you’re moving an appointment forward, you mean you’re bringing it nearer to you.

The “you” in both cases is the you of the present. You may not accept that the you of the present is the true you, or even that there can ever be a single authentic self, but you have to accept that the “you” of the present has been saddled with the task of organising your diary.

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Explore posts in the same categories: confusing idiom, shared metaphors, visual language

One Comment on “Scheduling idiom”

  1. smallbeds Says:

    For the record, I remain completely uncomfortable with it. I end up visualising me moving through time towards these events, stood still in the distance; however, because an event moving backwards means an event moving further away from me, then they are all facing me. Looking at me, with dead eyes, as they gradually appear from the mists of the future.

    Either that or it means that I’m facing in the same direction as the events, but permanently moving backwards through time: if an event can move backwards from 2007 to 2008, and I go from 2007 to 2008 too, then I must be forever going backwards. That would explain a lot.


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