zeg definition

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time…

—Macbeth (5.5.19—21)

The passage of time vexes us all. Macbeth had perhaps a more morbid, characteristically Shakespearean outlook than some, but he had a valid point to make: the nature of time is to march on, waiting for nobody. It can be easy to get caught up in the thought of this — stressing about whether you’ve made the most of the time you’ve had so far, whether you’re equipped to make the most of the time you have left, and wondering just how much time that is. When time is viewed as a vague and intangible entity, the future can certainly seem intimidating as it rushes headlong toward us. But affixing a word to it gives us something to grab on to, something that grounds us and puts the future into perspective. Suddenly, the passage of time seems less scary and more a part of the natural order of things: something inevitable, but benevolent. The thought of a “tomorrow” isn’t so overwhelming, nor is the thought of a day after that. Giving that day a label, like zeg, makes it seem like that much less of a thing to worry about.

Existential crises aside, we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about tomorrow and what comes after. Whether it manifests as the anxiety of an upcoming exam, the excitement of an old friend coming to visit for the first time in months or years, or simply the passive observation that the days to come are coming, the concept of the near future is no stranger to anyone. We talk about “tomorrow” so often that having a word for the day after seems obvious. And having such a word isn’t unique. Even English has one, as I just found out while writing this: the archaic, and now criminally underused, “overmorrow”. German has übermorgen, and überübermorgen, and überüberübermorgen, ad infinitum. But I like zeg for its simplicity. It’s not often that a word is legitimately adorable, but zeg is about as cute as a word can get. It’s short and sweet, saying what it needs to say and nothing more, not making the concept a bigger deal than it needs to be. And extending it to the day after the day after tomorrow, in the spirit of German, requires only the addition of an equally short and sweet prefix: mazeg.

Naturally, there are words for “the day before yesterday” as well. In archaic English it’s “ereyesterday”. In Hindi, परसों (parsõ) can mean both “the day before yesterday” and “the day after tomorrow”, which I wish I’d known about before I started this post. Interestingly, Georgian doesn’t seem to have a single word for this, but I’m fond of the Spanish word: anteayer (colloquially spelled antier). It’s not as simple or cute as zeg, but I like that going from “the day before yesterday” through “the day after tomorrow” takes us from A to Z, like bookends of time.

We could use more words dealing with the procession of time, the recent past and near future especially. They connect us more intimately to where we’ve been and where we’re going. Zeg makes the day after tomorrow feel that much closer, that much more real. It’s a reminder that tomorrow is only for tomorrow, and what comes after will come soon enough. And there’s a certain wisdom worth taking away from that. Whether you’re dreading tomorrow or looking forward to it so much that you wish you could hold onto it for longer, there will always be a day after.


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