Pet hate: prewarning and preplanning

One of the wonderful things about language is that it isn’t static. We understand English written hundred of years ago but we express the same sentiments differently. Even formal language changes over time. The flexibility of language to adjust to the times and circumstances of its users is something we should celebrate.

Still. Some uses annoy me.

It started some five years ago. I noticed that my boyfriend was using the terms “preplan” and “prewarn” to mean “plan” and “warn”. It annoyed me. I’m irritating that way: I allow linguistic quirks will get to me. My problem with preplan and prewarn is that they are tautological. The prefix is unnecessary. It adds nothing to the meaning of the word. In fact, prewarn to me suggests warning someone that you’re about to warn them, which seems outright dumb. Preplanning I understand better: sometimes you have to plan your plan, especially if there are other people involved in the planning process.

Both words are, of course, in the dictionary. Prewarn is in the OED and preplan in Merriam-Webster. Prewarn means forewarn which means, sigh, warn. Preplan means to plan beforehand. (Can you plan after the fact?) They are perfectly good words. I just don’t like them.

They’re insidious little words too. Their use seems to be spreading. (Although it is possible that I just hear them more because I don’t like them. The brain works that way.) I’ve heard people prewarn and preplan on television and radio so it wasn’t just my partner who liked the sound of them. I wonder if they are more frequently used in American English and have come in through television? Preplan certainly looks American, if only because it’s in an American English dictionary but not in the OED.

Why they became popular, or why started hearing them, doesn’t really matter. There are words or usages that just sit wrong in my ear. I’m sure you have some words you don’t like too. I probably use them. Daily.

One comment on “Pet hate: prewarning and preplanning

  1. As it happens, “tautological” is one of the words that irritates me *least* 🙂
    The words that make my teeth hurt are mainly related to my previous civil service job, for example “pro forma”. It’s used in the US, so I didn’t escape its wrath.

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