+0
This abomination is rampaging through the United States (people intend it to mean "I'm ready to serve the next person in line") and it drives me crazy! I always want to say, "No, you can't help who's next, this is just the way we're lined up. There's nothing you can do about it." I think it should be "Can I help whoever's next," or - here's a daring thought - how about "Next, please." Am I being overly sensitive? Is there some way of seeing this as acceptable that I'm missing? Is it British? (In which case I certainly apologize for calling it an abomination, and will try to be more accepting!) Does it bother anyone else? Any comments?
1 2 3 4
Comments  (Page 2) 
Hi guys,

I've never heard anyone say 'Can I help who's next?' but I'd deplore it if I did. It's undoubtedly the incorrect thing based on common usage, and it grates on my ear.

I don't think anyone in this thread has actually said it's grammatically incorrect, but that seems to be the implication. I'd like to dispute that a little, because I have trouble seeing it as grammatically incorrect. In fact, to show what confusion a little thinking can get me into, now I have some trouble seeing that the 'whoever' version is really the most suitable way to express what I see as the meaning.

Here's what I think. 'Whoever' in the above sentence suggests 'the person who is next, no matter who that is'. We say it because of politeness, to show that we are not ourselves arrogantly deciding who is next. It's like 'You folks in line, please work out who is next'.

Compare 'I'll sell my car to whoever wants to pay me a good price'. The 'no matter who' quality is more easily seen here.

See how far down this deplorable road I've come? It leads me to wonder whether 'Can I help who's next? doesn't actually make grammatical as well as semantic sense. Grammatically, compare 'Do you know who's next?' Semantically, consider that while 'whoever' has the 'no matter who' quality, 'who' targets the specific person who is next.

I'd better just stick to 'Next, please!'

Best wishes, Clive
Clive - to me, "Can I help who's next" is not exactly grammatically incorrect, but it sounds like it should mean "Do I have any control over who's next? Is it my fault that the people are lined up in this particular order?" (As in - "I just stated a fact. Can I help it that he took offense?)

whereas "Can I help whoever's next" means "May I serve the next person in line, whoever that may be?"

In your example, I would say that "Do you know who's next?" means "Do you know who the next person in line is?" while "Do you know whoever's next?" means "Are you personally aquainted with the next person in line, whoever that may be?" (which, as my daughter pointed out, is a rather unlikely question).
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
ForbesAm I alone in being irritated by people who over-analyse macrosememes?
Overanalysis of macrosememes I can stomach. But overanalysis of exocentric ethnomacrosememes is another matter entirely.

MrP
Hi Khoff,

OK. I just wanted to suggest that the grammar is not clearly wrong.

It seems to me that the meaning 'Do I have any control over who's next?' is not an issue here, because the context of server and customers would pretty well rule that out in most cases.

I think 'Can I help whoever is next' suggests '... whoever that may be', which seems unnecessary unless there is a disorganized line of customers and there is genuine doubt as to who is next.

'Can I help who is next' seems to me to be short for 'Can I help the person who is next', which seems more appropriate in cases where there is an organized line of customers.

Anyway, no question that servers who actually say 'Can I help who is next' should be severely punished.

Best wishes, Clive
It seems to me that the meaning 'Do I have any control over who's next?' is not an issue here, because the context of server and customers would pretty well rule that out in most cases.

I'm not claiming that anyone really means it that way -- it just sounds to me like that's what it should mean.

Anyway, no question that servers who actually say 'Can I help who is next' should be severely punished. Emotion: smile

And we haven't even touched the "can I" vs. "may I" question!
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Am I alone in being irritated by people who over-analyse ...
NO!!!
Sorry if this discussion has been irritating people. I thought it was an appropriate topic for the vocabulary and idioms board. In fact, I still do. Why is it more irritating than many of the other detailed analyses that go on here? There have been 49 posts re: Tall Drink of Water -- was that equally irritating?

I'm afraid I can't find "macrosememe" in my dictionary or the Cambridge Dictionary Online. From context it seems to mean phrase or idiom, but if someone would like to give me a better definition of it I would appreciate it. Perhaps if I know what they are I might choose to avoid over-analysing them in the future. No guarantees, though.
Aren't we here to hyper/over-analyze? (whenever we have the opportunity)
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Thanks, Pieanne. There are discussions that get so involved that I lose interest, but then I just stop reading them. I figure that as long as more than one person is interested, the discussion is serving a useful purpose (assuming that the content is "appropriate," of course).
Show more