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spring back, fall forward?
November 16, 2006 6:02 AM   Subscribe

If I say to you, "The 5 o'clock meeting has been pushed forward 1 hour," what do you understand the new meeting time to be?
posted by war wrath of wraith to Writing & Language (134 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
4 o'clock.
posted by amarynth at 6:03 AM on November 16, 2006


To me, "pushed forward" is earlier. 4 o'clock. "Pushed back" would be later.
posted by blue mustard at 6:04 AM on November 16, 2006


4:00
posted by meerkatty at 6:04 AM on November 16, 2006


4 o'clock
posted by Atreides at 6:05 AM on November 16, 2006


Ditto.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:09 AM on November 16, 2006


This is really surprising to me. I would take it to mean 6:00. Forward is later, backward is earlier.
posted by textilephile at 6:09 AM on November 16, 2006


4 o'clock.

But it's confusing. "Push" suggests moving something away from you. On the other hand, "pushed back," in corporate terms, means "moved into the future," so "pushed forward" would have to mean "moved into the past." Still, it starts to deconstruct the "push" metaphor, because if you can push something into the future, and you can also push it into the past, then your own position relative to that thing is not clear. Using the "pushed back" standard as a guide, we know that the person doing the pushing is on the forward/past side of the item. Therefore, in order to push the item forward, the pusher must move to the other side of the item (climbing over it? walking around it? traveling through time to a point in the future ahead of it?), and apply the push from the opposite side. This leads to the question: Wouldn't it have been easier to just pull the meeting forward?
posted by bingo at 6:12 AM on November 16, 2006 [3 favorites]


Ok, now comes the real question. I meant it to mean 6 o'clock. Can someone explain to me, since I seem to be in the minority here, how "forward" could equal "one hour back"? Something in my brain is just not getting this.

On preview: THANK YOU textilephile.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 6:12 AM on November 16, 2006


I would be uncertain, its non-standard so has the potential to sit in two camps. Pushed to me implies movement away, so with regard to time, movement away from the now, ie, further into the future which would mean later. Brought forward would be clearer, with pushed back normally meaning later. It's kind of like saying 'yes, thank you' and 'no, please' in response to an offer of a cup of tea - it's possible to make sense of the reply but it's out of the ordinary.
posted by biffa at 6:12 AM on November 16, 2006


bingo: Whoa.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 6:13 AM on November 16, 2006


6.00 p.m. 4.00 p.m. would be brought forward.
posted by TheRaven at 6:13 AM on November 16, 2006


I think the standard response is pushed back and moved forward/up, and you got your wires crossed...
posted by unexpected at 6:14 AM on November 16, 2006


I read it as 6 o'clock, I but I can see 4, just because if you say it's been pushed back an hour, that must be 6 o'clock, so the opposite of that must mean making it earlier.
posted by starman at 6:15 AM on November 16, 2006


I would've taken it as 6:00 too, but unsure enough about it to confirm before moving forward with that assumption.

The similar one that I REALLY have trouble with is "the deadline has been pushed (back/up)".
posted by tkolstee at 6:15 AM on November 16, 2006


I'm used to hearing 'pushed back' (postponed) opposed with 'moved up' (rescheduled earlier). 'Pushed up' is neither and both.
posted by ardgedee at 6:17 AM on November 16, 2006


er. 'Pushed forward' isn't 'pushed up.' I've never heard it used unambiguously, though.
posted by ardgedee at 6:18 AM on November 16, 2006


i read it as 4:00 because pushed back in the common term used to describe when something has missed its expected release date. it only seems logical that pushed forward would mean the opposite.
posted by phil at 6:21 AM on November 16, 2006


It's ambiguous: "pushed" indicates later, but "forward" indicates sooner. So to "push something forward" introduces a conflict, in my mind.

If someone said that to me, I'd have to immediately ask for clarification, or try to determine from context what they meant.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2006


To me, "Forward" means "closer to you". So, the meeting is one hour closer to mean, 4pm.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2006


I would think four, but understand the confusion; when we change clocks for daylight saving time we say "spring forward, fall back" to convey the opposite meaning. For that reason, whenever I deal with a schedule change like that, I try to rephrase it and repeat it back to the person telling me; "So the meeting has been moved to 4:00 now, right?"
posted by TedW at 6:29 AM on November 16, 2006


After several minutes of reflection, I think I've figured it out. The six o'clock people are thinking of this in terms of the progression of time. To travel forward in time takes one to the future (a later time) and to travel "back" in time takes on to the past (an earlier time).
The four o'clock people are thinking of it from the perspective of the meeting's attendees, standing face to face with this meeting. If it is pushed forward, it is being pushed toward them. If it is pushed backward, it is being pushed away from them. I think. So it's just a matter of perspective, then. Which doesn't help because both sides are right.
posted by textilephile at 6:30 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if this is something that can clearly be explained, as its more of a subjective thing. Here's my take: By pushing something "forward" you're bringing its completion/enactment about sooner, thus an earlier than the planned time.

By pushing something back, you're delaying the event/action, and thus, it takes place at a later time.


I guess the confusion sets in when people decide you're discussing the hands on a clock or the criteria I referenced above.

Another example, but on a calendar basis. If someone said the party was pushed back from the 15th, you would assume its happening after the 15th right?
posted by Atreides at 6:30 AM on November 16, 2006


I would've thought you meant 6. I think it's in the term 'pushed' (as in, further away).

Anyone who thinks 'pushed' means something earlier, sooner, closer, is.. well. Wrong. :/
posted by angryjellybean at 6:31 AM on November 16, 2006


You should always clearly state the new time when moving a meeting.
posted by lampoil at 6:31 AM on November 16, 2006 [2 favorites]


Surely also, 'pushing forward' is a kind of oxymoron?
posted by angryjellybean at 6:31 AM on November 16, 2006


To me, "Forward" means "closer to you".

If it is pushed forward, it is being pushed toward them.

This is the part I'm having major difficulty parsing. If I push something forward, isn't it further away from me? Or is that only because I'm using "I" as the agent?
posted by war wrath of wraith at 6:34 AM on November 16, 2006


I imagine it like this: You are standing in a long corridor, with people representing events. People behind you are past events, people in front of you are future events. They are all facing the opposite way to you (eg towards the past). If you ask one of them to come forward, they come closer to you, eg they get moved backwards in time.
posted by spark at 6:35 AM on November 16, 2006


It means 4:00, like it or not.

It's stupid, probably, but "pushed forward" means made sooner. It's semantically the same as "moved up", about which you might have asked the same question.

It's "forward" (or "up") because it's from the world of words related to schedules, lists of things to do. So forward/up is better, sooner, accelerated, improved, closer to the top. Progress made. This is why you can "push" something "forward" or up. It's a list.

Pushed back (or "moved back") for an event means delayed, later... think retarded, slowed, impaired... further from the top of the list or agenda.

It's all a very modern/western/capitalist sort of wordview, but as long as you think of how your to-do list is affected, you'll always remember the 'right' usage.

(If you think of it as a timeline, however, you're screwed, and if you picture a gridded calendar, you'll get a headache.)

I have been through this one hundreds of times over the years, and the best communications advice is to just not use the term at all, because it is so frequently, easily, and even reasonably misunderstood. Use "changed to an earlier time, 4pm" or "delayed until 6pm" or something that's not so easily misunderstood.
posted by rokusan at 6:36 AM on November 16, 2006


I think the thing has to be facing you, and you aren't the one pushing it. It is simply being pushed! But what if you were the one to push it forward? Then my head would explode.
posted by textilephile at 6:36 AM on November 16, 2006


I automatically assumed 6, but 4 does makes sense too.

ardgedee hits the nail on the head in my mind. It does seem like a combination of two opposite expressions.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:38 AM on November 16, 2006


You should always clearly state the new time when moving a meeting.

bingo ... this is nothing but an example of sloppy, poor communication

"the meeting we had for 5 o'clock has been changed to 4"

precise, unambiguous and everyone understands it
posted by pyramid termite at 6:41 AM on November 16, 2006


It's just ambiguous, for exactly the reasons people have given here:
1. combination of two expressions with opposite meanings
2. "forward" can mean "forward within the forward movement of time (ie later)" or "forward within the ordering of priorities that you have to face today (ie sooner)".
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:44 AM on November 16, 2006


It means 4:00 to me.

I don't think I've heard the exact phrase "pushed forward" before. When it was raised here, I contrasted it to "pushed back"—which always means "later"—and figured "well, this must be the opposite of that."

Normally, if someone wanted to say that a meeting will be sooner than scheduled, I'd expect to hear "moved up."

Now, this is all in the context of English as she is spoke. But taking the phrase "pushed forward" in isolation, out of idiomatic usage, I can see why a person might use it to mean 6:00 -- the clock runs forward, and if you're following the clock, forward means later. Bingo and biffa both get at the underlying psychology behind the opposite usage, I think.
posted by adamrice at 6:44 AM on November 16, 2006


Don't use euphemisms. What pyramid termite said.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:45 AM on November 16, 2006


If I say to you, "The 5 o'clock meeting has been pushed forward 1 hour," what do you understand the new meeting time to be?

I wouldn't understand what you meant and would ask for a clearer statement.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:46 AM on November 16, 2006


It means 4:00, like it or not.

You're just ignoring all the other posts?
posted by smackfu at 6:46 AM on November 16, 2006


this is nothing but an example of sloppy, poor communication

I wouldn't understand what you meant and would ask for a clearer statement.

Yes, lesson definitely learned. But it's interesting how so many people immediately understand one thing without any confusion at all. I still don't understand 100% how "forward" could possibly mean "earlier," but understand 1000% how it's confusing language at best.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 6:48 AM on November 16, 2006


You're just ignoring all the other posts?

AFAICT, this is standard terminology in the business world, whether it makes sense to the people on AskMeFi or not. In my experience, "pushed forward" is the most common way of saying "made earlier" (even more common than stating it directly).
posted by winston at 6:50 AM on November 16, 2006


Definitely 6:00. Moving it "forward" means moving it "forward (in time)" or ahead one hour.
posted by fvox13 at 6:52 AM on November 16, 2006


My immediate understanding would be 6pm, but I would think about it for a second and decide that you probably meant 4pm. Then I would check with you. I think my initial reaction might be partly just to do with the fact that things are moved later a lot more often than they are moved sooner. It's also to do with the fact that I usually hear "pushed back"/"brought forward" and not the other way round (I am a Brit, if that makes any difference).

See also "next Saturday" - is is the next Saturday that is going to happen, or the one after that (next week)? I always check this one as well. Relative times and dates are a nightmare.
posted by teleskiving at 6:54 AM on November 16, 2006


If you had told me that my 5 o'clock meeting had been pushed forward by an hour, Id give you the most confused look and ask you to tell me exactly what time the meeting is going to be.

Pushed means away from you, implying the meeting is delayed an hour, hence it will be at 6.

Forward, as in "I brought forward my 9pm trip, its now going to be 7pm" implies that its closer, hence at 4.

I'm not even sure why someone would bother to hazard a guess as to what you mean when you seem to be giving conflicting information.
posted by althanis at 6:54 AM on November 16, 2006


I'm in the 6 o'clock camp. Had I been given this notice, I guess I'd have missed the meeting.

Better just to state the new meeting time in the notice, I'd think.
posted by trip and a half at 6:58 AM on November 16, 2006


If I push something forward, isn't it further away from me?

Yes, but if you push something back, it's also further away from you. Pushing something, no matter what direction you push it, means moving it further away from you. Try placing an object on your desk and then pushing it toward yourself. You can't. All you can do is pull the object toward yourself.

The metaphor is flawed. The standard use of the metaphor, in which we say "pushed back" to mean "moved into the future" is all we have to establish a frame of reference. The two words were not really necessary; we could simply say "the meeting has been pushed," and that would have meant "moved into the future." But that's not how the idiom developed. It developed as "pushed back," an abstract metaphorical phrase made of two words, each of which is part of its own dichotomy. So you can create any of the following combinations:

pushed back
pushed forward
pulled back
pulled forward

What do any of these things mean? There's no use in trying to make literal sense of it. All we know is that, for whatever reason, society has decided that "pushed back" means "moved into the future." A similar idiom meaning "moved closer to the present" has not developed. Sometimes, taking an idiom and adding things to it is intuitively clear. For example, if we take it as a given that the word 'disnify' means 'to take a story and make it stupid, condescending, contrived, predictable, cute, and conducive to spawning a line of toys,' and then I say to you, 'we need to de-disnify this screenplay,' then you know what I mean, because you're familiar with the prefix de-, and its use in relation to this idiom makes sense. In a way, that's what we're trying to do when we take "pushed back" and make it into "pushed forward." But it won't work, because, unlike de- in my example, the word "forward" is no longer its own unit in this case; it's part of the idiom. "Pushed back" might as well be its own word; the fact that there's a space in the middle of it makes it tempting to switch out one of the two words, but that won't work, because the meaning is tied to the two words as taken together.

So, the bottom line is that it's best not to think of "pushed back" as a metaphor that you can play around with. It's just a string of letters that means "moved into the future." If you want to say "moved closer to the present," you've got to either invent your own metaphor (which you have to be careful with in a corporate environment, where a gift for linguistic nuance is not exactly common - I speak from experience), or just throw your literary aspirations to the wind and plainly say what you're trying to say: "The time of this meeting has been changed to six o'clock." If someone tells you that you should have said "pushed forward," send them to me and I'll punch them in the face.
posted by bingo at 6:59 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Heh...I had problems with this just last week when I rescheduled something. I take "push forward" to mean a literal pushing forward of time (i.e. I'm in the 6 o'clock club), and "push back" is like traveling back in time (to 4 o'clock). But some people didn't understand what I meant until I gave them concrete dates.

My vocabulary is now two phrases lighter. The confusion just isn't worth it.
posted by phatkitten at 6:59 AM on November 16, 2006


I've always found this expression really odd since I started to encounter it in common business use in the mid-90s. Odd because there are always a few people in every office (myself included originally) who don't get it, because it does contain a conceptual contradiction depending on where you envision yourself as a pusher relative to a pushable item on the arrow of time, and even odder because there is an absolute way of describing an event being earlier or later than a fixed point in time (I just used it; "the deadline is now a day later" "the deadline is now an hour earlier") which requires the same amount of words and cannot be misunderstood, which I'd think would be an attractive feature for something having to do with meetings and due dates. But maybe less satisfying to say, because there's no associated imagery of powerful people pushing and pulling stuff.

It's basically jargon for a certain kind of office, and like a lot of jargon, its poor functioning as vocabulary is compensated for by its use as a shibboleth. When people say it to me these days, I still need a minute to remind myself that they mean the opposite of what I think it sounds like.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:00 AM on November 16, 2006


Also, because I am bored - Googling for "meeting has been brought forward" gives 164 results, "meeting has been pushed forward" gives 11. "Meeting has been pushed back" gives 186 results. Of course this is hardly a ironclad research strategy but I think it sheds some light on the problem.
posted by teleskiving at 7:00 AM on November 16, 2006


If there's anything this thread proves, it's that "pushed forward" is not clear.

Still, in my experience, "forward" always means earlier. I guess I must never talk to these people who push meetings forward to later times. Weird.... Is it geographic? For those who think 6pm, where do you work? East coast USA here.
posted by blue mustard at 7:01 AM on November 16, 2006


6 no question about it.

pushed = later in the day

time is linear, time moving forward does not mean that it is getting closer to you, or whatever silliness the 4 o'clock people think. Looks like they all get to wait 2 hours till the smart kids show up.
posted by outsider at 7:03 AM on November 16, 2006


See, to me the verb "pushed" doesn't indicate direction. It's entirely the "forward" that is making me think earlier.... I can push a meeting in any direction.
posted by blue mustard at 7:06 AM on November 16, 2006


Typically, I would hear the term pushed earlier if it was moving backwards... push forward, to me, means 6 pm. To be safe though, specifics always help.
posted by perpetualstroll at 7:12 AM on November 16, 2006


Surely also, 'pushing forward' is a kind of oxymoron?
Tell you what - you go stand over there. I am going to stand behind you and push. Will you go backward?

"Pushed forward" is ambiguous because people are focusing on the "push" part and because the "forward" means something counterintuitive when applied to scheduling.

So why does "moved up" mean earlier? Does time always progress downward? When a meeting has finished winding down, doesn't it wind up?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:17 AM on November 16, 2006


If there's a meeting with other people, then for goodness sakes simply state the new time for the meeting.

I'm not harping at you, wwow, please don't take it personally as you only asked the question to Ask. But there is a small place in hell for all the meeting-makers who get cute with "push the time out" or "the meeting might start at 5 of ten" (what does THAT mean!??!) and other cutesy turns of phrases.

It's a meeting. Other people's time is involved. Be precise with time and location, and have a firm agenda.

ok, time to get ready for yet another meeting
posted by seawallrunner at 7:18 AM on November 16, 2006


"Pushed" and "forward" confuse me. I'm standing here, at 3 pm or whatever. I'm looking towards the time of the meeting, at 5pm. You tell me it's been "pushed forward" 1 hour - to me, I push the little block saying "meeting" forward one hour. Now, it's at 6pm. The "Push" is more important than the forward or back.

Better to say, "Moved up," because then, I'm looking at my calendar for the day, at I see meeting at 5pm. If it's been moved up 1 hour, then it moves up from 5 to 4. Better yet, say "The meeting has been moved to 4pm."
posted by muddgirl at 7:20 AM on November 16, 2006


Believe it or not, this is an active area of research in cognitive science: see here.
posted by myeviltwin at 7:20 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


This is a passive voice problem. What's doing the pushing? Everyone's assuming it's the present pushing, but I'm guessing it's a deadline that's causing the pushing. A deadline that is after 5pm. The meeting needs to be pushed away from the deadline, therefore it needs to be earlier.

I don't know, I just thought 4:00, no question, and now I'm trying to figure out why for myself!
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:23 AM on November 16, 2006


I wouldn't have understood either and would have asked whether you meant 4 or 6. This kind of speak has always confused me. Giving clear instructions works best.
posted by smich at 7:23 AM on November 16, 2006


so.. pushed back means later. There seems to be a general agreement on this.
Pushed forward therefore also means later? Not true. Forward is the opposite direction of back. Pushed forward means 4pm.
But it's crap terminology, fyi. Always state the new time for a meeting, not a time relative to the old meeting.
posted by defcom1 at 7:25 AM on November 16, 2006


I say that it means 6:00, because I think of the face of a clock. Using this physical image shows that "pushed forward" = moving the hands of time forward (clockwise), which means that it's later. If you wanted the time to be moved earlier, you'd have to say "pushed back" or "moved back" an hour, which would indicate that I would need to move the hands counterclockwise, or earlier.

I had no idea I was in the minority about this. It's a good thing I'm an ISTJ and need to have concrete times provided, I guess! Had I relied upon my understanding of the words, I'd have been late or early every time a meeting changed!
posted by parilous at 7:27 AM on November 16, 2006


You're just ignoring all the other posts?

AFAICT, this is standard terminology in the business world, whether it makes sense to the people on AskMeFi or not. In my experience, "pushed forward" is the most common way of saying "made earlier" (even more common than stating it directly).


Maybe your business world, not mine. Pushed forward to me means "made later" and I understood the new timing to be 6.00. To me, forward implies 'plus' -- 5.00 'plus' 1 hour = 6.00
posted by patricio at 7:28 AM on November 16, 2006


I would interpret it as 6:00.
posted by srah at 7:30 AM on November 16, 2006


to me, I push the little block saying "meeting" forward one hour. Now, it's at 6pm. The "Push" is more important than the forward or back.

Yeah, but the meeting "has been pushed" forward - he didn't write to say, "everyone, please push the meeting forward one hour." In this case, that little block of time was pushed forward toward you, to the 4 o'clock slot.
posted by mdn at 7:37 AM on November 16, 2006


6:00, I don't think I would have even paused to consider 4:00.
posted by KAS at 7:38 AM on November 16, 2006


6:00 here.

Of course I would then ask you to update your meeting schedule in Microsoft Outlook's calendar otherwise I will forget. And don't forget to set the reminder.
posted by MarkLark at 7:41 AM on November 16, 2006


patricio, I'm not saying I disagree with your logic. If you just parse the actual words, you won't get the right answer. I'm just saying that, where this phrase is in common use, what it actually means is something different than one would expect.

The English language is full of things that don't make sense. Using this phrase at all is (obviously from these comments) asking for trouble, but using it and trying to insist that it should be interpreted differently than the (logically wrong) meaning that it has in workplaces where it is a common phrase isn't improving the situation.
posted by winston at 7:48 AM on November 16, 2006


I'm not harping at you, wwow, please don't take it personally as you only asked the question to Ask.

I also gave my mea culpa upthread. But no offense taken; I completely understand the frustration with ambiguous language. As I said already (after enough responses had been logged), I was just fascinated by the fact that so many people (including, initially, myself, and the first six commenters) found no ambiguity at all.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 7:48 AM on November 16, 2006


I would have assumed 6:00. I can't say that I've ever heard "pushed forward" in this context (it's either "pushed back" or "moved up" in my mind) and so I think I am focusing on the "pushed" and associating that with "pushed back". If I read it carefully and thought about it, I would have been confused and asked for a clarification, but in the context of a meeting change email/voicemail I probably would not have even gotten that far, and would have missed the meeting.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:50 AM on November 16, 2006


4:00 and I wonder why anyone would take the time to use extra words to make anything more ambiguous than it has to be.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 7:51 AM on November 16, 2006


this is one of my standard party-chitchat questions*, actually -- specifically because everyone is confused about it and it gets people talking/arguing/throwing punches. in my experience, "pushed forward" gets about 60% earlier, 30% later, 10% wtf?

* yes i am boring
posted by sonofslim at 7:51 AM on November 16, 2006


Strange phrasing, yes, but while "push" is suggestive, "forward" is definitive. In what conceivable way is "forward" to mean "later"?

I think mdn has it. You're thinking like workers and not like the boss. Workers move toward deadlines. Pushing forward means pushing that deadline back. But to a boss? He can push that deadline toward you.

4:00.
posted by dreamsign at 7:57 AM on November 16, 2006


I'm not pushing you away. I'm pulling me toward myself.
posted by bigmusic at 8:03 AM on November 16, 2006


To me, "Forward" means "closer to you".

If it is pushed forward, it is being pushed toward them.


If the thing is a car it matters not which way it's facing relative to you. Pushing it forward is always going to mean moving it in the direction of the front end of the car.

"pushed forward" gets about 60% earlier, 30% later, 10% wtf?


Well then 60% of people are self-centered jerks and 10% are clueless. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Actually this one bugs me personally, I had boss in the 'earlier' camp. He was sure the entire universe revolved around him, including apparently the flow of time itself.
posted by scheptech at 8:09 AM on November 16, 2006


What about "brought forward", instead? Having run this idea up the MeFi flagpole and leveraged our competencies, it looks like "pushed forward" has incomplete buy-in. Best play it straight down the line and let people window their schedules with a clear mission vision and widecast the precise time.
posted by normy at 8:11 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I would have assumed 4:00 and not even have considered 6:00.

I'm confused as to why people think pushing something forward moves it farther away. To me, pushing something forward brings it closer.

But I agree with many people who have said that this is a very ambiguous thing. To me the "push" implies later and the "forward" implies sooner. But when I hear the two together, I can make the push mean something a little different in order for the sentence not to be contradictory. But the forward *always* means sooner to me.
posted by jdroth at 8:14 AM on November 16, 2006


In what conceivable way is "forward" to mean "later"?

On a timeline. We are all moving into the future. We aren't moving backward into the future; we're moving forward into it. If we're walking down a road together, and I push you forward, then I have pushed you in the direction that we're traveling. I can't push you forward into the space where we've been unless you turn around and face that way first. Otherwise I'm pushing you back.

That said, you can see that early in the thread, I threw in with the 4 o'clock group. It's confusing. The metaphor breaks down very easily. In my analogy above, what does it mean for me to turn around and face you so I can push you the other way?

The truth is that meetings cannot be pushed or pulled, moved forward or back. They aren't even things. They are events. They happen when they happen. In order to cause them to happen at certain times, we introduce metaphors dealing with time and movement, but of course those metaphors break down, because that's what metaphors do.
posted by bingo at 8:15 AM on November 16, 2006


Well then 60% of people are self-centered jerks and 10% are clueless. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Speaking of jerks, why does a fairly trivial question like this require name calling?
posted by blue mustard at 8:18 AM on November 16, 2006


There are logical reasons for either way, but it's gotta be one or the other, and the convention is that forward=earlier, so 4:00 it is. Sure, this doesn't make sense, but that's what the convention is.

On preview: what bingo just said.
posted by equalpants at 8:19 AM on November 16, 2006


Scheptech's comment is condescending. It's as if he thinks the world only revolves around him. I don't think this is a psychology experiment. I don't think self-centered people think one way or the other. It's apparent from the responses in this thread that many different people interpret the statement differently. I suspect it's based on how we're taught, not who we are. Perhaps it's a familial thing. Or a regional thing. Who knows? But give me a break. Saying that people are self-centered jerks because they think the phrase "moved forward" means bringing something closer? That's stupid. Time is not a car.
posted by jdroth at 8:20 AM on November 16, 2006


The 5 o'clock meeting has been pushed forward 1 hour

The key word here isn't "pushed" but "forward" because, as many others have said, it's ambiguous.

If you replace "pushed" with "moved" then you get:

The 5 o'clock meeting has been moved forward 1 hour

which, to me, is obvious that the new time is 4 o'clock.
posted by mr_silver at 8:22 AM on November 16, 2006


6:00. When you go back in time, you go earlier. So both pushed and forward would make it ahead. Also, with our books, the deadlines get pushed out or moved up, so there is push making it later.

Also, for next Saturday, it depends on where in the week you are. On Monday and Tuesday, this Saturday is the one that has just passed, so next is the closest to you. After Wedsnesday, though, this Saturday becomes the one that is coming up, so next is the one after that.
posted by dame at 8:24 AM on November 16, 2006


4:00
Forward == closer to me. I think of "push" referring to the fact the meeting has moved, but has no bearing on which direction it actually moved. I can't gleam which way a meeting as moved from "Push," but "Forward" tells me the direction.
Backwards == away from me.
posted by jmd82 at 8:24 AM on November 16, 2006


I work in publishing where we're pushing print deadlines forward (earlier) and back (later) all the time, so it would be easy to say it would 4.

But no one talks like this for meetings except marketing assholes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 AM on November 16, 2006


Yeah, but Brandon, I work in publishing and here we don't say that. I think it's just one of those things.
posted by dame at 8:29 AM on November 16, 2006


I think it is helpful to look at various combinations of words. To me, the following are utterly unambiguous:

moved forward 1 hour = 4:00
moved back 1 hour = 6:00
pushed back 1 hour = 6:00

The actual construction is somewhat confusing to me because I associate push with 6:00 and forward with 4:00, but in my mind I settled on forward as "stronger" and went with 4:00. I think the person who said "pushed forward" is the source of all the trouble and needs to be retrained. ;)

The people who hold that "forward" implies later on a timeline baffle me. Would they really think that "moved back" or "pushed back" meant the meeting was one hour earlier? Inconceivable. Maybe they just assume all change = delay, which means they may work for the same clients I do.
posted by Lame_username at 8:35 AM on November 16, 2006


Batter the person who sent the email.

"the 5pm meeting is now at 6"

...or 4
posted by craven_morhead at 8:36 AM on November 16, 2006


The people who hold that "forward" implies later on a timeline baffle me.

I'm telling you, it's because when you use a time machine, you go BACK in time.
posted by dame at 8:39 AM on November 16, 2006


I'm glad you asked this as I never understand what people mean when they say this to me (especially when they talk about weeks or months.) I just say "When?" and then grumble. It does seem silly to speak like this, when this would only be said when both parties know the original time so it would be much clearer just to state the new time of the meeting...
posted by ob at 8:39 AM on November 16, 2006


I think that reading the comments just pushed my brain cells back! WOW! It is often used in my profession but also often misinterpreted. Usually someone will say the time i.e. the window time is pushed forward to 4:00 when it was originally 5:00. Often it is pushed out or pulled ahead which is a bit easier to interpret.
posted by scooters.toad at 8:40 AM on November 16, 2006


In what conceivable way is "forward" to mean "later"?

On a timeline. We are all moving into the future.


Yep, and those events are "headed" toward you.
Is the boss moving you forward? No.
He's moving the meeting forward. Toward you.
posted by dreamsign at 8:40 AM on November 16, 2006


I would have clearly understood it to mean 6:00, and would not have even asked for clarification. To repeat: you need to say what time the meeting is moved to, because everyone will understand something different.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:51 AM on November 16, 2006


"the meeting might start at 5 of ten" (what does THAT mean!??!)

It means five minutes before 10:00.

As for the original question, I would've assumed 4:00 and not really thought much about it. I would take "pushed" in this case to be synonymous with "moved" and focus on the "forward" part.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:56 AM on November 16, 2006


I would have thought 4:00 for a simple reason. If you had said "pushed backward," I would have assumed without hesitation that you meant it was now at 6:00. "Pushed forward" must mean the opposite, so therefore, 4:00.

But I would have looked at you funny and asked for clarification, too.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:58 AM on November 16, 2006


it means 4:00, like it or not.

Nobody can speak for the entire business world. If anything this is a good example of miscommunication. Or, the phrase would make more sense given more context. Everybody here is right which means that nobody is.

Actually, the only people who are wrong are the ones insisting their way is the *only* way. Clearly, this thread proves otherwise.
posted by vacapinta at 8:59 AM on November 16, 2006


4. And having surveyed my row, 100% said 4.
So perhaps it depends on office usage?

To me, all these metaphors of pushing people and blocks and the like overly complicate the issue.
The key word I focused on was "Forward" which means "Earlier" to me.
"We jumped the meeting forward one hour"
"The meeting was pushed forward an hour"
"Our deadline has been moved forward one hour"

They all say the same thing, which is, "The foo is now one hour earlier". The verb used doesn't matter.

However, I do agree with most of the other poster ins saying, if you move a meeting/deadline/engagement/tête - à - tête, you must specify a new time(and I always reiterate the date, just to be thorough).
posted by madajb at 8:59 AM on November 16, 2006


I'm telling you, it's because when you use a time machine, you go BACK in time.

Wouldn't be my first choice, but whatever you say.


I just say "When?" and then grumble.

That's the only sensible response. (Grumbling is optional.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:03 AM on November 16, 2006


My highly scientific data collection indicates MeFites are almost equally divided between the 4:00s (26), the 6:00s (22) and the people pontificating on the subject without giving an answer (23).

After previewing, the 4:00s seem to have pushed forward and gained the upper hand w/ 29 votes.
posted by bobobox at 9:06 AM on November 16, 2006


I would have turned up to the meeting at six.

As time progresses, the hand of a clock moves forward. Of course, in this case forward is also clockwise. Direction must refer to the measuring device.

Considering that the notion that "clockwise" is a standard convention, whether you like it or not, it has to be the prevailing convention here. Just because its widely accepted or even accepted by the majority doesn't make it right.

This is another example of corporate speak corrupting a useful definition. Other examples include: re-iterate, going forward and my favorite: "to be honest with you".
posted by dantodd at 9:13 AM on November 16, 2006


I see it as changing sequence not time. (Remember we're talking about moving a meeting, not moving time.)

The things I have to do at 5 come before the things I have to do at 6. I'm at the head of the line, dealing with things as they come toward/past me, so everything is relative to me. Forward in line = closer to me, backward in line = farther from me. If I move the 5 o'clock things forward one, they're going to be bumped up in line to be with the things I have to do at 4. So forward = 4; the verb you use (to me, at least) is irrelevant.

I'd make you tell me the actual meeting time, though, because your phrasing gives contradictory information.
posted by stefanie at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2006


I'm a 4:00 person. I liken it to something being moved/brought/pushed forward in an agenda, which to me means closer to the beginning, and thus closer to now.

But then against that I remember "spring forward, fall back" for daylight savings time. So I guess I fall into the "head explodes" camp.
posted by muhonnin at 9:32 AM on November 16, 2006


4:00 PM. Push forward implies some sort of urgency, so I automatically assume you want the meeting sooner rather than later. Also what stefanie said.
posted by reformedjerk at 9:34 AM on November 16, 2006


4:00. With the flow of time, events in the future move toward you. If the event moves forward, it's even closer to you than it was.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:44 AM on November 16, 2006


Yep, and those events are "headed" toward you.
Is the boss moving you forward? No.
He's moving the meeting forward. Toward you.


Events on a timeline are not headed in any direction. They are where they are. They don't have faces, and they don't have asses.
posted by bingo at 9:46 AM on November 16, 2006 [2 favorites]


I don't go with zed_lopez's answer. Time moves forward away from you.

English is really bad with time descriptors.

I thought "6:00...no wait, 4:00... better ask."
posted by lorrer at 9:49 AM on November 16, 2006


I would have assumed the meeting was at 4, but would not go until 6. With any luck, I'd miss some or all of the meeting, and would have an apparently valid excuse.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:50 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


With the flow of time, events in the future move toward you.

This actually shows an interesting difference in perspective. The way I think of time, I am moving through it. I am the subject, and time is the object.

I'm the present is standing still, and the future is moving toward the present, then what is happening in the past? Does the flow continue? Is last week standing in line behind last month, pushing it forward? And way at the front of the line, what happens when the second moment that the universe existed shoves up against the first? Do these events push through into some sort of fifth-dimensional nexus?
posted by bingo at 9:52 AM on November 16, 2006


I would have assumed the meeting was at 4, but would not go until 6. With any luck, I'd miss some or all of the meeting, and would have an apparently valid excuse.

Actually this sort of happened to me a couple of months ago. I was asked to attend a meeting at 11am tomorrow and the email was sent out at 3am. I assumed that 11am tomorrow meant the next day (I picked it up at around 8am) but it didn't and everyone else turned up apart from me. Still, I had a valid excuse... That's the reason why when I write something like 'tomorrow' I make sure to give the day and the date too, just to avoid any confusion...
posted by ob at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2006


Apparently everyone else that turned up said that tomorrow doesn't mean tomorrow but in fact today until around 5/6am. I suppose I give a midnight-1am window for that kind of confusion, but not any later. The whole thing was that I didn't think about this for one second, it was just a natural assumption on my part...
posted by ob at 10:01 AM on November 16, 2006


It's amazing that there's so many replies. I didn't go through complicated mental calisthenics to come to 4:00pm.

I've never heard "pushed foward". I wouldn't understand it except in contrast with "pushed back". I think we can all agree that the latter expression is very common, while "pushed forward" not so much (at all).

The expression "the meeting time has been pushed back" has always meant to me that the meeting will occur later. I have never heard anyone use it otherwise. To me pushing something back means pushing it away. Push back an attack. Push back against the man. Whatever. It's not "push backwards", it's "push back". The meeting was pressing up against us, we didn't have the time for it, we pushed it back. Now it's later.

Might sound silly or stupid. Doesn't matter. Coming up with a plausible argument as to why it should mean the opposite doesn't matter. It's the common usage of the expression, and to be honest I have a hard time believing anyone would use "meeting has been pushed back" to mean that the time of the meeting is earlier.

And by deduction, if "pushed back" means later, since "forward" is the opposite of "back", "pushed foward" means earlier. But the expression itself makes little sense. I've always heard "moved up" or "moved forward". Or just an actual statement as to the new time.
posted by splice at 10:04 AM on November 16, 2006


This actually shows an interesting difference in perspective. The way I think of time, I am moving through it. I am the subject, and time is the object.

Agreed with the later bingo, and that is where the confusion lies. Either you stride purposefully along a timeline upon which you see future events marked (such that moving an event forward would move it further away from you) or you sit immobile on a chair while the timeline scrolls underneath and events get closer to you (such that moving an event forward would move it closer to you).

I buy into the clock analogy (or any left to right analogy really -- if you skip forward in a book you read closer to the end, not the beginning.)
posted by patricio at 10:15 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I must disagree with winston -- this particular phrasing is not "standard practice" in the business world. It's this person's muddied way of communicating, and others are poor communicators too. When I have even a tiny glimmer of confusion, I ask for clarification, "So that's at 6 then?" which is how I heard it. However, I can see the 4 p.m.'ers side of it too.

I'm a corporate communications consultant -- this kind of stuff actually keeps me in business when the sloppiness scales up to communications strategy, issues resolution, etc.

Not to derail, but I've always been confused when, on a Saturday, your pal says, "I'll call you next Tuesday." To me, that means ten days hence. To some, it means in three days time. Isn't the Tuesday coming up just "Tuesday" or "this Tuesday"? Doesn't "next" make it next week?
posted by thinkpiece at 10:24 AM on November 16, 2006


4.
Pushed back means, without any confusion, 6.
Forward is the opposite of back.

Ways of thinking about time or visualizing pushing imaginary objects really has nothing to do with it.
posted by juv3nal at 11:10 AM on November 16, 2006


Forward is the opposite of back...Ways of thinking about time or visualizing pushing imaginary objects really has nothing to do with it.

That's just not true. In reality, nothing is getting pushed, nothing is moving, and there is no forward or back involved. It's all just an amalgamation of metaphors.

Forward is indeed the opposite of back, but the use of back in this context is idiomatic.
posted by bingo at 11:28 AM on November 16, 2006


"Pushed" in my mind is clearly "away," since for something to be pushed, there must be a pusher, and the ones doing said pushing are not beings from the Future, they are us, now. Therefore, later. "Forward" means towards us, or earlier. You cannot push something towards you. That's called pulling. Therefore, the message cancels itself out! The meeting is at five!

(actually, I read it as being at six first time)
posted by Bookhouse at 11:33 AM on November 16, 2006


4:00.

Pushing something back is, to say, holding it off, while pushing it forward is to bring it closer to you.

Think of the meeting as a piece of paper floating on a weekly calendar. If you push it back, you're holding off. If you push it forward, you're pushing it out the door more quickly. You're moving forward on it sooner, effectively.
posted by disillusioned at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2006


It's a linguistically muddled sentence, really. I can see why there's even a debate on this--and I can also see why most people still think 4.

I had to pause for a second to think about it, though. I'd just avoid garbled constructions like these, for the sake of communication. As many have pointed out, though we innately understand it on some level, "push forward" is almost a contradiction in terms and ideas. Then again, if someone were to say, "He pushed back his project for a few days," as disillusioned pointed out, the meaning is clear and instantly understood.

So, even if it sounds awkard, perhaps substituting "pull" for "push?" It might have an odd ring to it, but if you get used to it I'm sure it'll catch. Initiate the meme! :P

"The meetings been pulled forward an hour."
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 12:01 PM on November 16, 2006


4, but I did a double-take. I've only heard "pushed back", never "pushed forward".

Might be a regional thing? I'm in the UK.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:15 PM on November 16, 2006


The Stanford psycholinguist Lera Boroditsky has done research on this. Turns out you can get people's intuitions to flip by asking them at certain times or places--people waiting to take a train move in one direction, people arriving from a train in the other, etc. You can get the relevant papers here, if you're really interested:
http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/
posted by slipperynirvana at 12:17 PM on November 16, 2006


No, no, it's 6.

The event is (presumably) in the future. You're in the present. By pushing it, you are moving the event away from you. You can push it back, that is, push it away, and move it to 6. Likewise, and somewhat confusingly, pushing it forward, that is, forward in time, also gets you to 6. The issue is that the direction modifier changes meanings depending on which one you pick.

If you want to move the meeting to 4, you pull. Then, the meaning of the modifiers is reversed, and you pull it forward, towards yourself, or you pull it back, back in time.

Hope it's all clear now! I always considered this in the same category of chopping firewood: "First, chop the tree down, then, chop it up." English is like this.
posted by bkudria at 3:07 PM on November 16, 2006


"The 5 o'clock meeting has been pushed forward 1 hour,"

6.

How can anyone take push forward to mean, in fact, an hour earlier?
posted by oxford blue at 3:21 PM on November 16, 2006


It's businessspeak. I took it to mean 4:00 because I've worked in a cube farm long enough to know better than to try to make sense of it.

Gotta get back to work and action some tasks now.
posted by klarck at 4:09 PM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I always have seen it as a matter of progress, if it's pushed forward, you can get it done faster, if it's pushed back, its a setback? See what I mean?
posted by wheelieman at 4:27 PM on November 16, 2006


I understood it to mean 4:00, instantly and without a doubt, and am sort of fascinated to see that many didn't.

Language is neat. It's a wonder we ever get anything done.

That phrase aside this is the kind of "memo" that always drives me crazy. It gives you the old information, some new way to alter the old information, but not the answer. Argh!
posted by dirtdirt at 4:42 PM on November 16, 2006


I immediately thought 6:00.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:49 PM on November 16, 2006


4 pm.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:14 PM on November 16, 2006


I immediately thought 6 o'clock. as well. But then I saw all the 4 o'clock answers, thought about it, and realized that yeah, they probably meant 4 o'clock. But "pushed forward" is a stupid and counterintuitive way of putting it.
posted by limeonaire at 6:06 PM on November 16, 2006


The logical answer is 6:00 (you don't push things closer to yourself) but in the business world always assume worst case and the idiot changing things at the last minute has created a problem for you rather than a break, by requiring you to be ready an hour ealier than planned.
posted by scheptech at 6:24 PM on November 16, 2006


4:00, but me being me I would have asked to have it confirmed.
posted by deborah at 8:49 PM on November 16, 2006


you don't push things closer to yourself

It doesn't say "the meeting has been pushed closer to us" it says "pushed forward." There's nothing contradictory about pushing something forward. If your car is broken down and a bunch of people put their hands on the trunk and push, it rolls forward.

The people who say 4 seem to be thinking of someone other than themselves doing the pushing, or they are focusing on the "forward" rather than the "pushed." They are imagining moving forward on an agenda, not travelling forward in time.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:59 PM on November 16, 2006


or they are focusing on the "forward"

Uh huh, and when an appointment is moved "forward" in time it actually moves toward the past?

Or when something is "pushed" it becomes closer?

I guess it's some kind of weird double positive which results in a negative, either by itself would mean 6:00 but put 'em together and you get 4:00...
posted by scheptech at 10:52 PM on November 16, 2006


4:00, definitely. Forward = earlier, backward = later.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:14 PM on November 16, 2006


4.

I see myself in a fixed position (the present), and events come towards me. myeviltwin's link is great -- I'm the dude sitting looking at the conveyor belt. If something is pushed forward, it's going to reach me sooner. If it's pushed back, I get some breathing room.

I've never heard someone say, "the deadline was pushed back" and mean that the deadline was now closer than it used to be.
posted by robcorr at 12:29 AM on November 17, 2006


I toldja if you imagined a timeline, you'd be screwed.

Next, stop thinking of a pink elephant. Now!
posted by rokusan at 7:31 AM on November 17, 2006


I learned recently that you could say "the meeting has been preponed an hour", if you meant for it to be at 4. (Thanks, languagehat!)

I'd vote for the meeting to be at 4, I think, if it had been pushed forward an hour, since I know what it would mean for it to have been pushed back an hour.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:40 PM on November 17, 2006


I'd have shown up at 6 and never even thought that you could have meant anything else. I'm surprised that thinking is so in the minority. The day goes forward, not backward, so pushing the meeting "forward" would mean pushing it further in the day. If you had the meeting in your planner/calendar/whatever, you would move it foward on the itinerary.
While I suppose that if I spent a while really really thinking about it, I might be able to accept other people would think that could mean making it an hour earlier, it's one of those things that I will never see the line of reasoning for it. Which rarely happens, and is always mindblowing.
posted by Iamtherealme at 11:45 PM on November 18, 2006


Doesn't "pushed back" mean BACK as in backward. If I hear that a meeting has been pushed back - - say, from 4:00, I assume that it means it was moved to 3:00. Back is back....right?? UP, on the other hand, is forward. If the meeting was pushed UP, I take that to mean it was pushed from 4:00 to 5:00. It seems to me that over the years people have begun to talk "backward" or else they have changed the meaning of "back" and "up". Is it just me??? I guess we should just say "the meeting time has been changed from 4:00 to 5:00", (or whatever) and be done with it, but I remain confused re: the "back" and "up" thing.
"
posted by MyShare120 at 9:18 AM on April 15, 2007


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