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I've heard people using this idiom, such as "each day is better than the next", or "you hope that each experience you have is better than the next" (heard this one on a TV show not long ago), apparently in a positive way.

However, if taken literally, I find the meaning very negative - if the current thing is better than the next, then the next thing must be worse, so things would just keep getting worse and worse. How do you explain this phrase/idiom?

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Heh fascinating! How bizarre. –  Joe Blow May 12 '14 at 6:33
1  
This seems to fit right in with the (AmE?) usage of "I could care less", which is usually meant to mean the exact opposite of what is said :) –  oerkelens May 12 '14 at 10:40

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You're absolutely right.

A quick google suggests that this is a commonly misquoted phrase.

The phrase should be 'Each day is better than the last'.

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You guys can't be serious! It's meant to mean each day is getting worse. It's a deliberate joke. Not at all a misuse. SMH

Very much like the following:

"How are you?" "Oh, average; Worse than yesterday, but better than tomorrow".

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No. It's not a joke. It's just people learning a phrase as an idiomatic unit and using it as such, knowing what the phrase in its entirety means and not thinking about what the actual, logical implication of the words that make up the phrase is. Personally, I had never given it a moment’s thought before now, and I have used the phrase on several occasions. I have never heard it used jokingly, only in a sincere sense where the meaning very obviously is one of things getting better day by day, not worse. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 24 at 10:14
    
There are obvious misuses which appear in a Google search for "day is better than the next", and OP adds the caveat that it seems to be examples of the non-witty variant that they have come across. –  Edwin Ashworth Jul 24 at 10:17

It might well have arisen as a conflation of

'each day [etc] is better than the last'

with

[I'm] no better than the next man'.

I'm enough of a prescriptivist to be glad that the previous two answers label it as a 'misuse'.

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As noted, it apparently is a misuse of a sentence, especially in Am E, though, as Ngram. shows, I'd like to point out that the correct sentence better than the last has been gaining more popularity versus better than the next in the last decades.

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