Rats, it happened again… all these years and I still stumble into that funky little rabbit hole known as the calendar. Chilean calendars not only start on a different day, they are used differently too. You’d think I’d have that down by now!
Here’s the set-up. I receive an e-mail on Monday the 22 requesting something for next Wednesday. No problem, I zip back, silently applauding the sender for allotting me so much time. But oops… watch that slippery step there sister, a cultural-linguistic trap lies in wait…
Momento–Momento (in other words: Stop Right Here):
Let me ask you this: supposing that we’re dealing with a 31-day month, what is the date of the Wednesday in question?
Seriously…please leave a comment with your language and country of reference (as in where you learned to use a calendar) and tell me what Wednesday you think we’re talking about.
OK, Adelante…now you can read on…
Here’s my guess. If you grew up speaking English in the States, you’ll say Wednesday the 31st; if you grew up speaking Spanish in Latin America, you’ll say the 24th. And I’m really curious about other language-country combinations. Here’s the deal.
In Latin America (where they use European-style calendars that begin on Monday, which is logical if you consider that biblically Sunday was the 7th day of the week)… when someone says “el próximo miércoles” (next Wednesday) they look at the calendar to see when the very next Wednesday rolls around, which in this case is 2 days later on the 24th. But in the US, that “próximo” (next) jets us off to next week to start our Wednesday-hunting, and we discover that it is the 31st… And this is so because to us any day of this particular week is preceded by “this,” as in THIS Wednesday (the 24th).
The same thing happens when we look back in time. If we’re in July 2009 and I hear a reference to “el mayo pasado” (last May), I’m thinking 2008. Not so my Chilean colleagues. Last May is still fresh in their minds because, well, duh, it was only a couple months ago—while I’m wracking my brain to remember what was going on 14 months back.
So, bottom line: “OJO” which is, of course, Chilean for “Careful” with dates… Gringos: when you hear a próximo or pasado, double check on just exactly which next or last your Chilean friend is referring to.
And Chileans, please be aware of this potential glitch when dealing with English speakers or your otherwise punctual gringo friends are likely to show up a week, a month or a year late!