In the series Shameless.US, S06E10, an actress utters "leave immediately, sooner if possible". Is this idiomatic? I'd like to know why sooner refers to.

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    It's a joke (you can't leave sooner than immediately). I've not seen the show you reference, but I assume it's intended to convey a sense of urgency. Oct 8, 2018 at 20:57
  • I think this joke is well known & well understood. It appears in may books. When I google for immediately, sooner if possible in Books I get 30+ occurrences.
    – k1eran
    Oct 8, 2018 at 21:10
  • You should provide a link to the script and quote more lines of the script. The more work you put into a question, the more work people are likely to put into their answers. Knowing this show as I do, I would guess that this is not someone telling a "joke" in order to make someone laugh. It is using language in a way to express how soon they want the person to leave: (1) immediately (2) sooner than immediately of possible. Obviously one can't leave sooner than immediately, but this "illogical" use of language stresses how quickly the speaker wants the other person to leave. Oct 17, 2018 at 4:04

1 Answer 1


It isn't quite idiomatic, although there are plenty of similar expressions.

It's just humor.

Clearly one cannot leave sooner than immediately.

Some experts assert that Franz Liszt's legacy includes a piano score with the author's note at the top of each page, and those notes progress as follows:

Page 1: "Play very fast." Page 2: "Play faster." Page 3: "Play even faster." Page 4: "Play as fast as possible." Page 5: "Play faster still."

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    Play faster still: is it grammatical to put still at the end of the imperative?
    – GJC
    Oct 8, 2018 at 21:04
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    Yes, it is. ..............
    – Ricky
    Oct 8, 2018 at 21:11
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    Is your period key stuck? Oct 8, 2018 at 21:25
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    @AleksandrH: No, it's just my way of saying: "Meaningful pause here."
    – Ricky
    Oct 8, 2018 at 23:12

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