Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Sep 4 23:56:30 UTC 2011

On Sep 4, 2011, at 6:20 PM, victor steinbok wrote:

>> Some random observations from ESPN coverage (printed):
> ...
> 2. "sooner than later":
> There was this story breaking about Oklahoma zeroing in on leaving the Big
>> 12 for the Pac-12, and the Sooners might be doing it sooner than later.
Since posting on "later than sooner" and "sooner than later" a couple of times back in 2008--
        From:   Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>
        Subject:        Re: "sooner than later"
        Date:   July 29, 2008 9:48:54 PM EDT
        To:     American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>

Some of you will recall this discussion back in April of "Later Than Sooner" that I posted from a Times headline:

>> I don't know what these are called, but note the headline of this
>> piece in today's Times:
>> And in case you think it's a typo (for "Later Rather Than Sooner"
>> perhaps), the inside page headline in the hard copy is
>> Chamberlain Will Start,
>> But Later Than Sooner.

Arnold mentioned the many hits for "sooner than later".  I wasn't conscious at the time of having heard this, but I've heard it twice today, once in a radio interview with a baseball player and the other from the ESPN commentary on the World Series of Poker competition.  In both cases it meant 'sooner rather than later'.

--, I've noticed the "sooner than later" version often enough to conclude that for many it's quite standard.  I'm pretty sure I haven't encountered "later than sooner" (= 'later rather than sooner') since then, though, or I'd have noticed.  Not that it doesn't exist; there's a whole blog site for "Motherhood Later Than Sooner".  But most of the others seem to involve another comparative lurking, as in "better later than sooner", while the "sooner than later" really does seem to be used as a comparative unto itself.


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