Can 'recently' mean not long before a specific time in the past?

For example, is it correct to say the following sentence?

That day, when Jim arrived home, he started eating the ice cream he had recently bought.

If not, what adverbs or phrases best suit here?

  • Given the relatively short lifetime of ice cream, recently probably isn't a good choice of adverb there. You wouldn't normally say I recently bought X if you'd actually bought X earlier that day - when referring to actions completed a very short time ago, it's more natural to say something like I [have] [only] just bought it. But in your case it's contextually obvious Jim couldn't have bought the ice cream very long before arriving home, so there's no real point in trying to convey that explicitly - you might as well have said he started eating the ice cream he [had] bought. – FumbleFingers Aug 1 '17 at 17:22
  • @FumbleFingers, maybe he bought the ice cream two days before and has kept it in the freezer since then? – The Photon Aug 1 '17 at 17:25
  • @The Photon: Bizarrely, if I didn't know the text came from a non-native speaker, I'd say your (superficially, contrived) interpretation is far more likely than that John ate the ice-cream on the same day he bought it. Which just goes to show that recently doesn't usually work when the sense is earlier that day (I'd say it nearly always implies not long before that day). – FumbleFingers Aug 1 '17 at 17:31
  • @FumbleFingers, agreed, I didn't even think that the OP might have meant the ice cream was bought earlier that day until you commented. – The Photon Aug 1 '17 at 17:36
  • @FumbleFingers, Thanks for your comment. I see what you mean. But the main point of my question is something else. That sentence is just an example. – apadana Aug 1 '17 at 17:38

Yes, recently can be relative to an explicit or implicit reference time in the past.

When the Little-Endians lay siege to the city in 1524, their numbers included mercenary troops they had recently hired from Freedonia.

  • Reason for the downvote, please. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 1 '17 at 17:44
  • I suspect either a programmer who objects to your expropriation of a term of art and its use in a whimsical connexion, or a Fredonian who objects to the misplelling of the name of Die Vaterland. – P. E. Dant Aug 1 '17 at 23:25
  • @P.E. Dant. Sir, no one accuses me of whimsy. Soft boiled eggs at dawn. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 2 '17 at 0:27
  • ...and two duck eggs. – P. E. Dant Aug 2 '17 at 0:32

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