seventy-six going on seventeen

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HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
Hello,

I was just wondering what 'seventy-six going on seventeen' meant. I presumed it meant 'As she was seventy-six but she was seventeen at heart, ....' Am I correct?

Had she been in the kitchen when Ben walked through, she definitely would have heard her. Nana was a walking cacophony. Not because of the stroke, but because it went part and parcel with her personality. Seventy-six going on seventeen, she laughed loud, banged pans with the spoon when she cooked, adored baseball, and turned the radio up to ear-shattering levels whenever NPR featured the Big Band era. ('The Lucky One' by Nicholas Sparks)

Hiro
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    You are right.

    Children often would like to be older than they are, so if you ask a child their age, they will often say something like "I'm six, going on seven." It's their way of telling you that they aren't just six, but that they are almost seven.

    This comment plays on that idea. She is seventy-six, but she doesn't act like someone who is old and growing older. She acts like someone who is seventeen. She's "seventeen at heart", as you put. :)
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    This kind of expression can also be used in reverse—that is, saying that someone is "going on" a much greater age. "She's twelve going on forty" might be said of a youngster who is unusually mature, quiet, and serious as compared with most twelve-year-olds.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Children often would like to be older than they are, so if you ask a child their age, they will often say something like "I'm six, going on seven." It's their way of telling you that they aren't just six, but that they are almost seven.
    People also often say 'I'm six, coming on seven.' This tells you that his/her birthday for seven is soon, right? On the other hand, 'going on seven' tells you that he/she acts as if he/she was seven. Right?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I don't believe I've heard 'coming on seven' used this way. Perhaps it is used in some region, or in some variety of English. When I hear a child say "going on seven", it means that their birthday is coming soon. (For a child, 'soon' may be in 6 months, or a child may simply use this as a way of pointing out how old they will be a at their next birthday.)

    People use this phrase as a way of commenting on someone's behavior. It is somewhat ironic or humorous. If I say "she is seventy-six going on sixteen." I am saying that she is seventy six, and at her next birthday she will be sixteen. That is clearly impossible. People will understand that I mean that she is acting as though she will be sixteen at her next birthday, that is, far too young for her actual age.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    It's a child's way of talking about age, as I said above. When adults use it to comment on behavior, it is in imitation of this idiom.
    It is used in AE. I don't know whether children who speak BE use 'going on' this way.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I don't know whether children who speak BE use 'going on' this way.
    I don't think the 'literal' use is common in BrE: I'd expect a child to say, instead of "I'm six going on seven", something like "I'm six and three-quarters". I may be out of date on that, though.

    On the other hand, the ironic/humorous use is common:
    "How old's your daughter?"
    "Twelve going on twenty-six."
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I don't think the 'literal' use is common in BrE: I'd expect a child to say, instead of "I'm six going on seven", something like "I'm six and three-quarters". I may be out of date on that, though.

    On the other hand, the ironic/humorous use is common:
    "How old's your daughter?"
    "Twelve going on twenty-six."
    How about 'coming on' in BE, Loob? Would it be used for talking about age?

    - He is forty-nine, coming on fifty soon.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    How about 'coming on' in BE, Loob? Would it be used for talking about age?
    - He is forty-nine, coming on fifty soon.
    In my UK-EN English I would definitely not use it this way. But I do actively block out a lot.

    GF..

    "He is nearly 50". "He is 50 next birthday". "He will soon be 50".
    Coming on has a very different meaning to me. Now that is from many, many years back....
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Just to make sure if I've got it right. This expression often carries an impish sense of humor that it's uncommon to use "I'm 49, going on 50" to talk about your own age literally ? Do you all agree that it's not common in its literal use?
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is very commonly used in the literal sense by children who want to appear one year older than their nominal age.

    It is often used in the joking sense by adults, when they want to indicate a widely different age from the real one.

    Thus, 'He is 49, going on 17' means he is as mature as a 16-year-old who is proud of being nearly as mature as a 17-year-old.
     
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