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From NPR:

Hundreds of thousands of residents of West Virginia are enduring day six without tap water and schools in four counties of the state remain closed.

What's the meaning of day six above? The sixth day? For six days? Thanks.

  • Deciding to apply the name "Day N" to something means that the condition has existed and is expected to continue to exist for some number of days into the future and is worth counting. – Jim Jan 16 '14 at 5:34
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It means the sixth day without water. For example, if the water was interrupted Monday, the sixth day would be Saturday. It does not matter at which hour of the day on Monday this started.
You can also say "for six days", but this expression can be used alternatively and more precisely indicating the exact period of time between when the event started and the moment of speaking; for example you can say "for six days and ten hours".

  • You'd have to change the context somewhat to make that substitution. "Have been enduring for six days without tap water" would work, but still be a little more awkward. – Nick Stauner Jan 16 '14 at 4:05
  • @Nick Stauner I agree – Theta30 Jan 16 '14 at 4:13
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I'd call this "media-speak." "Day 6" is a construct often used by news outlets when describing a crisis situation that is being heavily monitored, where it will be relatively easy to determine when the crisis is over, but the end date is not known.

So, you might hear "Day 10 of the hostage crisis," or "Day 12 of the oil spill," but in the latter case, that would imply the oil is still leaking. After the oil well is capped, you might be less likely to hear "Day 14 of the oil clean-up," because the clean-up is more in the aftermath of the crisis, and it's more difficult to figure out when a clean-up effort actually ends.

In the West Virginia story, I expect the media outlets will stop using "Day X without water" once all the residents have their water restored, or at least such a large percentage of residents that the news agencies don't deem the situation to be a crisis any longer.

I don't think you'd hear this construct used very often in day-to-day conversation, unless the person is deliberately trying to sound like a newscaster. For example, after a severe blizzard, my friends don't say, "This is Day 3 of the school closures;" rather, it's, "The schools have been closed for three days."

As another example, it sounds perfectly natural to my ear to hear: "This is Day 12 of the budget standoff" (particularly if I'm listening to a news broadcast); however, "This is Day 3 of our household chicken pox epidemic" sounds very odd, unless deliberate humorous hyperbole is intended.

  • It's not media-speak so much as event-speak. It's not uncommon to come back from a conference and tell all of your colleagues about the excellent presentations you heard on Day 2 of the conference, or to turn up early and in a suit on Day 1 of your new job. You might very well tell friends what happened on Day 3 of your vacation as well. – Matt Jan 17 '14 at 11:52
  • I don't consider "Day 2 of the conference" to be in the same category as "Day 8 of the revolt", but you make a good point about language being flexible in this regard. – J.R. Jan 17 '14 at 13:58

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