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 Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally

The following caught my eye in Paul Krugman's column in today's New York Times:
Projections for Medicare, however, have worsened: last year the trustees predicted that the hospital insurance trust fund would last until 2026, and now they've moved it back to 2019.
He is clearly using "move something back" to mean "move to an earlier date." Citations of the phrase in the same meaning can be found on the Web:
I would also like New Zealand to move the tour back to August instead of September so that it falls within our two-week school break.

Previously, a designated beneficiary must be selected by December 31 of the year following the IRA owner's death. The final regulations move the date back to September 30.

Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis was successful today in restoring critical funding for the construction of the CVNX. Davis secured $160 million to focus on the construction of the CVNX carrier, helping to move the construction date back to 2006 and saving jobs that may have been lost if the construction timetable was put off.... The White House budget called for a one year delay in the start of CVNX construction - the future aircraft carrier slated to be built at Northrop Grumman - from 2006 to 2007. This move would potentially cost the shipyard 1,000 jobs and hamper our military capabilities. Now Davis has succeeded in getting $160 added to help restore this time-line.
But "move something back" is also used to mean "move to a later date":
The HDTV standards were supposed to take effect for the networks by 2004, but I think they have moved the timeline back to 2009 now.

The DOE originally planned to have the repository finished in 1998, but it has now moved the date back to 2010.

The original rollout deadline under the terms of the 3G license was end 2003 with 99% coverage of the population. Orange wanted to move the deadline back to 2006.
Similarly, "move something ahead" can mean either "move to an earlier date" or "move to a later date":


When Jack Kay agreed to chair the 1987 American Royal Barbecue, he decided the traditional November date for the contest wasn't working. More often than not, contestants and the public had to fight cold winds, sleet and other disagreeable hardships from Mother Nature. Jack and the committee decided to move the contest ahead to October.

Just last week the prime minister proposed to move the general elections ahead to June 2004 instead of having them in 2005 as previously scheduled.

Also, the plan would now start earlier, as Clinton originally proposed that the benefit would begin in 2003 but he moved the timeline ahead to 2002.


The book predicted that the rapture would occur on September 11, 12, or 13, 1988. When the event failed to rake [sic] place, Whisenant found a slight error in his calculations, and moved the date ahead to September 1, 1989.

I want to confirm that the deadline is January 3. We did get some requests to move the deadline ahead to February, and although Diane and I have given it careful consideration, after weighing the pros and cons, we have decided to stay with the original deadline.

Those of you who have submitted abstracts for this year's ACH/ALLC Joint International Conference will be aware that the announced date for notifying applicants was March 15, 1995. Due to unforeseen circumstances, however, we are obliged to move the date ahead to APRIL 20, 1995.
None of the dictionaries I checked noted these potentially confusing ambiguities.

(Verifying the ambiguity of "move something forward" and "move something up" is left as an exercise for the reader.)
(March 26, 2004)