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Last, nursing

"Last May" was in...


"Nursing a (healthy) baby" refers to...

Looking after a baby, whether cuddling or feeding them.
Feeding a baby, by whatever means.
Breastfeeding a baby.



( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
Last May does indeed mean the May of the year before. Unless however it's June or later and you're talking about both the May of the year you are currently in AND the subsequent May.

If it's near the end of the year or early in the next year and you say "this may" it means next May. But if you say "this may" earlier than that, it will be assumed it is the May of the year you are currently in.

English is a superb language. Especially with cultural thingies thrown in too.

Aug. 24th, 2012 05:11 pm (UTC)
Plus or minus six months would be okay then?
Aug. 24th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
Awkwardly, I think it will be exactly six months after the relevant month that this will be published. Hmm. I wonder if I could still a year in there with any subtleness to avoid the ambiguity.
Aug. 24th, 2012 05:16 pm (UTC)
One thing I've learned from the Civil Service is to never be unintentionally ambiguous. Whilst intentional ambiguity is a valuable skill!
Aug. 24th, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
It's someone else's work, so I'm debating the merits of de-ambiguisation.

(I think I meant to write "slip" instead of "still" in that previous comment.)
Aug. 24th, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
Round my way, you can disambiguate by saying "this May coming" and "this May gone".
Aug. 25th, 2012 01:09 pm (UTC)
I agree with your disambiguation. Also agree with moral_vacuum that the length of time elapsed matters. Round about now (late August/Sept), "This May just gone," is starting to turn into "Last May".
Aug. 24th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
I know "nursing" is American for "breastfeeding", but it never means that to me. You "nurse" something by looking after it or making a fuss about it - "nursing a sore head", not feeding it. "To nurse a baby" would make me ask how ill it is.

As for May, by this stage in the year I would mean 2012, while I would say "May of last year" for 2011.
Aug. 24th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
Seconded for both.
Aug. 24th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
I don't know. You (or, at least the medical profession) would say, "nursing mothers" for breastfeeding mothers. (Or, for that matter, animals still feeding their young.) Then there's 'wet nurse'.
Aug. 24th, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
But you also employ a 'nurse' for general healthcare - and not just babies. What about someone who is 'nursing' a teenager in hospital? Or is employed as a nurse for an elderly or disabled person?
Aug. 24th, 2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
But the question was, specifically, about 'nursing' a healthy baby. So teenagers and the elderly do not apply, It's a word with several meanings.
Aug. 25th, 2012 01:14 pm (UTC)
To me the word has more than one meaning and the context would tell you which sense. I agree that it's generally used by the medical profession as a synonym for breastfeeding, but I would also use it for generally cuddling and soothing baby. So you (and "you" could be male or female) might ask if you could, "Nurse the baby for a bit," meaning that you want to cuddle it.
Aug. 24th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
If "last May" means May in 2011, what on earth does one call May in 2012? I'd use "this May" during the month of May but not later, and can't think of any alternative.
Aug. 24th, 2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
I would say "this past May" or, if there's a past tense verb in the sentence already, just "May". "I graduated in May and now I'm a credentialed ninja" can only mean May of 2012 in my dialect.

I didn't answer the poll because "last May" is EXTREMELY ambiguous in a sentence spoken in August, and I would want to clarify with an extra word or two ("May of last year" etc.).
Aug. 24th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
'Last May' means the last May you lived through (at this stage that would be May 2012 (which is also 'this May'). Next May is 2013. May 2011 would be the May before last.

On the same basis as 'last week, this week, next week, surely?

I need a lie down.
Aug. 24th, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC)
I should clarify my answers, or lack thereof on the first question: Because of this very problem, I usually specify what I mean. To me, "last" anything means the thing before the one closest to you in time (so, last week for me is August 13-17), but I know that it means different things to different people, so I'll almost always say something like, "Last May, by which I mean 2011, I was teaching this class..." Just to avoid confusion, even if it does sound belabored.

As for nursing, the default meaning for most ladies in Southern California is breastfeeding, but to me, it means all of the above choices that you listed, so I picked all three.
Aug. 25th, 2012 12:50 am (UTC)
I note that there's no "it's ambiguous" option for "Last May." Which is where I have to say my intuition firmly is at.

(As to nursing... er... not sure? Man, I have the conviction of my dialect here I guess.)
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:00 am (UTC)
Ah, linguistic peculiarities. If someone said "last May" to me, I'd initially understand it to mean 2011, as 2012's May is still "this May" to me, but I'd ask for clarification as I know not everyone feels the same way (as the poll results show!).

"Nursing", despite the nurseries offering general care and play, means breastfeeding to me in this context, although it's not a word I'd use myself. I'd refer to playing with a baby and caring for a baby in those terms.
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
A similar issue comes on, say, a Tuesday, when you say "Next Thursday", which could be confused with "This Thursday".

On the other hand, "Thursday after next" might actually be a week after this Thursday.
Aug. 28th, 2012 09:57 am (UTC)
In that case I think I'd avoid saying 'Next Thursday' at all, and instead use either 'This Thursday' (the day after tomorrow) or 'Thursday Week' (seven days after that).

I think 'last May' is ambiguous from June to about now-ish. 'This May' will mean May 2012 until January 2013, unless clarified with '-coming' or '-past'.
Aug. 26th, 2012 02:24 pm (UTC)
I'd be inclined to use "this past May" for 2012, or simply "May" if I'm referring to activities that are obviously past tense. "Last May", to me, makes the leap over "this past May" into the previous year, but I'd be more likely to say "May of last year" to avoid confusion.

Aug. 27th, 2012 10:21 am (UTC)
I had the "last" argument with someone in Canada...at length.

My feeling is that "last" refers to something in the relatively distant past.

In the argument, the noun in question was "weekend" - in which case, my argument was that "last weekend" could refer to the most recent one (referred to as weekend #2 for clarity's sake) *if* the next one (weekend #3) was closer than it (w2) was (i.e. if it is Thursday or Friday) - but otherwise, "last" refers to the one prior (w1). In which case, the most recent one (w2) would usually be referred to as "over the weekend" or "this past weekend".

The argument then spiraled into "this weekend" versus "next weekend"...

I am still unsure if that argument had more to do with his Canadianness or his argumentativeness. :)
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )