it’s time to stop pre-ing everything

We all have pet peeves. I have a friend who gets unreasonably annoyed at people that wear mismatched outfits. Seriously, it bothers him in a way I don’t pretend to understand.

I feel that way about the use of the prefix pre-. It’s being abused and it has to stop.

Pre- has its important uses, so don’t think I’m coming down on the prefix itself. We need precautions and the ability to preclude things. We need to know our predecessors, and of course without the prefix pre- there would be no word for prefix! Without it we couldn’t have premonitions or premeditated anything, and we certainly couldn’t establish prerequisites.

Having said that, we need to stop preheating. An oven cannot be preheated. It can only be heated or unheated.  If it’s unheated, you need to heat it, and if you’re following a recipe, you need to heat it to a specific temperature.  You should do that ahead of time, which is why we say preheat, but step 1 in any recipe requiring the oven should just say “Heat oven to 350 degrees” (or whatever temperature you need) and stop involving pre-.

You cannot pre-board an aircraft. You are either on the aircraft, getting on the aircraft, or not on the aircraft.  If people with special needs are to be allowed on the aircraft ahead of people without special needs, that should be “boarding first,” not pre-boarding.

There is no such thing as a pre-made meal. It’s either ingredients to make a meal or a meal. If you have a friend who has been in the hospital and you make something for them to stick in the freezer as a way to help them out, that’s a meal. When you buy a meal in a box at the supermarket, it’s not pre-made. It’s made. It’s already a meal, you just have to heat it up.

Similarly, you cannot pre-adapt anything. If you adapt something ahead of somebody else needing to use that thing, it’s been adapted. You haven’t pre-adapted. You’ve adapted.

There is no pre-purchasing, only purchasing. No pre-admission, because you’re either in or you’re out. I’ll give a little leeway on preamplify, but I’m standing strong on pre-allocate. There is no pre-arranging, pre-assigning, pre-booking or pre-focusing.

You might believe in predestination, but you need to let go of prefabricating. Seriously, what you’re making either exists or it doesn’t. If it does, it’s fabricated. If it doesn’t, it needs to be fabricated.

Drop your willingness to preformat, prehire and prejudge. Get rid of premanufacturing, premodification and premoistening. These are binary concepts! Something is either dry or wet. If it is wet, it is moist. If it is not wet, it is dry. Period. Just because somebody else moistened your towelette does not mean it is premoistened – it is moist! MOIST I TELL YOU!

You can be preoccupied, but you cannot preoccupy a building. You’re either occupying the building or you’re not. There are no pre-packaged goods. They’re either packaged on unpackaged. You don’t look at a single cigarette and say, “Oh, that’s prepackaged” because it’s not – it’s a loosie. Unpackaged. Again, just because somebody else does it for you does not mean we should be using pre- to define something’s state of being.

Eliminate prepayment, preplanning and prepreparing (that one especially galls me – how the hell do you get ready before you get ready? PREPARE ALREADY HAS THE PREFIX PRE- IN IT FOR THE LOVE OF PETE!! There’s no preprinting, preprocessing or preprogramming. No such thing as prepunched anything, prequalifying for anything (I heard this a LOT during the home-buying process and it rankled me every time – “Are you prequalified for a mortgage?”  “No, I am qualified for a mortgage, I have the qualification paperwork right here. Sell me the damn house already!”) and you certainly cannot prerecord.

Think about how utterly stupid that word – prerecord – is for a second.  When you see something on TV, it is either happening right now (a live broadcast) or it is not happening right now (in some way the event – whatever it is, a sitcom or game show). If it’s not happening right now, you’re watching a recording of it.  We have to stop calling it prerecording because the recording took place before the broadcasting. WE KNOW THAT – THAT’S WHY WE CALL IT A RECORDING IN THE FIRST PLACE!

If your kid goes to school, it’s not preschool – it’s school. Oh sure, they may be four years old and not in kindergarten, but it’s not preschool. I realize fighting this one is a losing battle, but I’m a proponent of prekindergarten over preschool.  Seriously, if the kid is AT SCHOOL it is not preschool.  It’s school!

No prescreening, no preselecting, and no preselling. You can’t presettle, preshrink or preslice. No presoaking, prestamping or presweetening. Absolutely no pretaping (see prerecord, above), pretesting or pretraining. Forget about pretreating, pretrimming and prewarming (see: preheating).

Prewash? Nope, nope, nope. Forget it. If it’s clean, it’s washed. If it’s dirty, it’s dirty. If somebody else washes it for you, that doesn’t make it prewashed – that makes it washed!

I feel much better now and am putting my dictionary – and my high horse – back on the bookshelf, right next to the CD that has the George Carlin routine that inspired this little rant.