Had breakfast with a good friend this morning; and, as is often the case, we got around to discussing grammar. It wasn’t as serious as defending the Oxford comma, but it was just significant. It was about the word ‘soon.’ And we decided that it’s an expandable term. As in, my ‘soon’ might not be the same as someone else’s ‘soon’.
Case in point: I have a gardener who’s helped me with my flower beds for fifteen years. When I need him, I call. And he says, “I’ll be there soon.” The thing is, I’ve learned that when he uses that word, he means sometime this week. But when I hear it, I imagine that he’s on his way. This has caused more than one disappointment.
Somewhere in those fifteen years, I learned to say, “What day of the week is Soon?” And he would be more specific. The disappointments diminished once the word was clarified.
Another case in point: Yesterday I returned from Albany, NY, via American Airlines. As we were descending into O’Hare Airport, the attendant gave the usual disclaimer: “Tray tops and seat backs must be returned to their original positions because we will (Even though ‘shall’ is the correct word) be landing soon. I suggest the flight attendant put a period after positions, because it’s possible everyone on that plane had a different definition for ‘soon’. Given what you’ve already read, mine was “We’re landing now.”
But I’ve flown enough to know that isn’t what the pilot means. He’s really saying, “Flight attendants, do your job before we go into final approach.” I adjust the tray table and my seat back and have learned to wait.
Tomorrow, I’ll share what I did this afternoon. It wasn’t over soon enough.