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I came across the line, “I want to watch a piglet get tortured about as little as the next guy,” in the article titled “China’s bizarre Food ‘Safety’ scene, and our own” in today’s New York Times’ (July 7). The article deals with prevailing deceptions of food stuff, lack of control of food safety, and ubiquitous torturing of livestock not only in China but also observed in the United States.

I’m not clear with what ‘as the next guy” means. Does it mean “as a (mere) onlooker,” or “as the next-door neighbor,” or “as a guy expected to get tortured in the same way as the foregoer in the next turn,” or otherwise? Please teach me.

The sentence containing the phrase in question reads as follows:

“Reports like these are unpleasant at best, and downright nauseating at worst. I want to watch a piglet get tortured about as little as the next guy, but if we’re never (or seldom) allowed to see how screwed up our food “system” is, how will we ever know to make a fuss to fix it? Same goes for China, but let’s clean house here first."

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's just another form of "as much as the next person", which Cambridge Dictionaries defines as:

as much as the next person
as much as anyone would
I enjoy winning awards as much as the next guy, but other things are more important to me.

In this case, he is meaning that he likes torture as much as anyone would, that is, no one, and he is really meaning he doesn't like watching piglets tortured at all.

Other examples are:

I like getting my questions getting closed as much as anyone else would.

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The next guy, is a way of saying anyone else. If you ask the next guy you see if they want to watch a piglet get tortured, that guy would have the same opinion. The connotation is that the little desire to see torture is such a given that anyone would agree.

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I like to do [something] as much a the next guy.

means I like to do it an average amount, but it's a stock formulation usually used to set up some kind of disavowal. There's always a "but" involved:

I like to do [something] as much [or as little] as the next guy, but I draw the line at [some condition].

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As othres have mentioned, the next guy here is used in the sense of an average person. Thus 'like [something] as much as the next guy' means like it as much as a normal person does.

This phrase usually works only on topics that most people are in agreement with. For example, in this instance, it is safely assumed that nobody enjoys watching piglets getting tortured and hence the sentence makes sense. However, if I were to use, "I like classical music as much as next guy", the meaning could be unclear because there is no clear majority for people who like classical music or those who do not like classical music.

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