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I came across an online English language course where the teacher claimed that if one used the expression "Could you please repeat?" instead of "Could you please repeat that?" over the phone it would be interpreted by the person on the other end of the line as a request to "vomit". Is this really true? It seems to me that I heard native speakers say "Could you please repeat?" without the "that" part in informal setting and that always meant a request to say something once again. Could some of the native speakers please confirm?

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repeat 7. to cause a taste to return after eating, as through belching –TFD - I've never heard that one before. – Mazura Jan 27 at 9:23
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Read your answers, thanks everyone. And yes, the teacher probably meant "belch", not "vomit". But my main concern was whether the phrase "Could you please repeat?" without the "that" could be misinterpreted, and I see now that it's can't. – Pete S Jan 27 at 11:20
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This meaning of "repeat" is common enough in the UK, but isn't used on its own like this, and it's the not the person that repeats but the food. So "Could you repeat?" won't be misinterpreted in this way. I think it's usually used together with "..on (someone)". So for example one might say "I had a curry last night and it's still repeating on me", meaning that the curry taste keeps bubbling up into my mouth (yummy) or perhaps just that I'm getting some acid reflux (yuk). Edit: Just seen that this is covered in an answer already, don't know how I missed that on first reading the page. – Rupe Jan 27 at 15:45
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If you work at it hard enough you can misunderstand anything. – Hot Licks Jan 27 at 20:49

10 Answers 10

up vote 90 down vote accepted

One meaning of repeat (intransitive) is:

  • (of food) to be tasted again after ingestion as the result of belching or slight regurgitation
  • to belch

(The Free Dictionary)

I don't think it could be misunderstood over the phone. The teacher was probably joking.

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Definitely joking, the only scenario I can think of where you might possibly be requested to vomit would be after ingesting something toxic and are calling a posion control center to find out what to do. Posion control wouldn't be using slang like repeat. – jmoreno Jan 31 at 16:12
    
I'd never heard of that definition before, and I'm a native English speaker.... so yeah. It won't be misinterpreted. – Brett Allen Jan 31 at 21:34

I have never heard the word "repeat" used in this manner. It definitely wouldn't be confused in American English. Might be a more common usage elsewhere.

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Likewise, northeast U.S. here, and I've never heard this usage before today. – Daniel R. Collins Jan 27 at 16:06
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Southwestern, and ditto. – BalinKingOfMoria Jan 27 at 19:58
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From the midwest, now in CO. I think I've heard "repeat" as a synonym for vomit, but you'd have to already be talking about vomiting. I mean, it would need to be clear from the context. You wouldn't just assume someone meant vomit because they used the word repeat. – DCShannon Jan 28 at 2:28
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Brit here, and I've never heard this usage either. – rand al'thor Jan 28 at 20:30
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Agreed. I was born in the Northeast of the States, live on the West Coast, and have never heard this usage. – zahbaz Jan 29 at 6:06

People sometimes say that a strongly-flavoured food has 'repeated on them', meaning that they have brought up wind from the stomach some time after eating and caught the flavour again. I suppose that's what the teacher was thinking of, but I wouldn't say that 'repeat' was a synonym for 'vomit' or would be misunderstood as such.

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So I am a native English speaker (well, New Zealand English, which is close enough :P) and I definitely use this in the sense given by the other answers (when I taste food again, usually something strongly flavoured or cucumbers). I wouldn't use it in the sense of to vomit, and I wouldn't misunderstand what was meant by "Please Repeat" in that context (actually I'm having a hard time thinking of any context where there could reasonably be confusion). In terms of my usage (not necessarily standard) the subject of repeat would be the food itself, and I'd usually follow it with "on me".

E.g.

"I don't like cucumbers, they tend to repeat on me."

"That curry I had last night is repeating on me."

Personally I would tend to prefer the usage "Please repeat that", but I don't think it is likely anyone would misunderstand "Please repeat".

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As an American, I've heard this before too, in more or less the same phrasing - but only in older written pieces. I had the sense that it was a non-American usage in general, though I would've assumed British. – recognizer Jan 27 at 15:22

The following usage of repeat is definitely of common or semi-common usage in Australian English, based on experience. The word would not be used this way:

"I had a huge night out on Friday and spent most of Saturday morning repeating in the bathroom";

but might well be used this way:

"I stayed up until 3 after eating that kebab which kept repeating on me and wouldn't let me lie down".

It generally means a sort of unpleasant half regurgitation, somewhere north of a burp and south of a retch.

While it's amusing to think that the different usages could be confused here in Aus, I can't remember ever making such a confusion or having to explain myself in correcting somebody else's. (Though I'd be far more likely to use "say that again?" or just "say again?" than "please repeat" while speaking with a person...)

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I've never heard this use in Australia. Possibly it could be regional? Which state/city do you live in? – curiousdannii Feb 1 at 9:24
    
I'm from country WA. But my housemate here is from fancy Melbourne and is also very familiar with the usage. We're both native English speakers - I'm probably a bit more ocker than her :) Actually, my other housemate here is also familiar with the phrase! She's from Perth and a native Aus-English speaker too – c ss Feb 1 at 9:39
    
I have edited my answer to say "The following usage" in place of "This usage", in case that was poorly worded – c ss Feb 1 at 9:59

A person doesn't "repeat" with this meaning of the word. A flavor repeats, or the act of swallowing the food may repeat if there is some regurgitation. In both of those cases it is not a person that is repeating, it is a food, or beverage that is repeating.

based on this idea it would be difficult for someone to mistake another persons request to "repeat" as that meaning. Unless you were in the land of giants, where it may be common for people to be eaten, and therefore repeat on the Giant's digestive system.

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+1 made me laugh – DaveBoltman Jan 28 at 14:57

As a native speaker, I've sometimes heard the phrase "repeat on me" used informally to mean belching or burping. E.g. "That chilli con carne is repeating on me now". In other words, my stomach is slightly upset now because of the meal, and it's making me burp. I've never heard it used to mean vomit.

However, just "repeat" without the "on me" part, as in your question - "Could you please repeat?" would always be understood to mean "Could you please repeat that?", and never "Could you please vomit".

Sorry, but your teacher is wrong. Please give him or her our greetings and a link to this page :)

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The teacher was wrong to say it sometimes means to vomit.

To 'repeat' means to retaste the food you've recently eaten in a burp. It's a bit unpleasant.

The teacher was right in that the request, 'could you please repeat?', might be seen as a bit impolite. 'Could you please repeat that?' is more correct. The most polite way would be 'could you repeat that, please?'.

However, no one would think you were asking the other person to vomit, or belch.

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Your teacher was making a (lame) joke. The point was that "Could you please repeat?" is not correct English. Repeat is a transitive verb, and as far as I know, no native speakers say "repeat" without an object. If you say, "Please repeat." over the phone, you'll sound like an ESL speaker...or a robot.

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There really is nothing wrong with "Please repeat" in an informal conversation over the phone (or perhaps over 2-way radio) where it's reasonable to understand that hearing may be impeded by noise or static. It is easy to see that it's an elided version of the more verbose statement. – Hot Licks Jan 29 at 19:12
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I have never heard a native English speaker say that. People say things like, "could you repeat that?", "please repeat that?", "repeat what you just said", or "repeat that last part" and on and on, but never "Please repeat" on the phone. Someone would say it over the radio, though, and it wouldn't sound quite as awkward. – Stephen C Jan 29 at 19:15
    
War movies where they're talking on the radio, as opposed to the phone? We're talking about present day conversational English. – Stephen C Jan 30 at 22:27
    
Smoke signals. These were OLD war movies. – Hot Licks Jan 30 at 22:42
    
I'll take issue with Stephen C's claim here. Any transitive verb can be use absolutely (that is, without an object). The best example would be any imperative: e.g. "Repeat!" An absolute verb is perfectly correct English. In fact, we use absolutes all the time. – Peter Feb 3 at 1:25

The colloquial term would be used thus: "that dinner is repeating on me". It most often means slight indigestion in the form of bile rising above the oesophagus into or near to the mouth. It does not mean to vomit, but rather a far less dramatic return of the food that is said to be "repeating".

No native English speaker would ever interpret an instruction to repeat something as a request to vomit. For one thing, the word cannot meaningfully be used in that sense in the imperative. And in any case, the context would make clear that this was not what was intended.

Examples of this usage:

"I like strawberry protein shake best but it tends to repeat on me."

"Ugh, that dinner is repeating on me."

"It was a great curry but it repeated on me all night."

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