Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

May 14 2010   12:27PM GMT

Forward, back, north, south

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Our long-time correspondent and frequent contributor Herzl (Tselly) Regev sent in this response to the question we sent out yesterday, If a deadline’s moved forward is it earlier or later? It seems the Israeli army has a different way of looking at this issue.

Here’s Tselly’s note:


In Israel, the army is perhaps the most prolific source of slang. Probably from there, “to the North” means “forward”, and “to the South” is “backwards”. As in: “starting Tuesday and to the North” means “from Tuesday and forward”. So if you move a date to the North, it actually moves to the South in the calendar…

Herzl (Tselly) Regev

Oooohhhh, must sit down. My head is spinning. Like many people, I find the directional concept confusing with dates — if, for example, I push something forward, it gets farther away from me. If I push it back, it could go backwards or it could go back towards whoever pushed it towards me in the first place. I don’t think I’ll get into that. No, I’ll just sit quietly and think about stationary items. And the next time someone asks if we can push a meeting back (or forward for that matter), I’ll just say no.

Tselly wrote again to say:

Actually I’m saying that the up and down are hopelessly mixed. Indeed, what does it mean to move a date up or down?

Maybe you’d like the biblical orientation, to the orient: the usual biblical word for east is forward, west is back (or to the sea – the Mediterranean), south is right (yamin or teiman – the Hebrew name of Yemen) and north is left.

There is a famous map of Israel on display in Jordan that is thus oriented. I seem to remember a Greek map of “the world” fron the 5th century BCE that is oriented like today’s maps, so I wonder where the word “orientation” comes from.

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