A customer recently sent me an email saying that he was being pre-pre-emptive. He got an updated product earlier than other customers.

I checked out the dictionary but I still find it hard to understand what he meant. Can anyone help me?

  • 2
    The other way to find out what he meant is to ask him.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 15:37
  • He simply means it's a very early statement. If, eg, a note about some sort of bug, it's very early, just after the anomaly was detected, and so his observations may not be correct. (Apply this to whatever context the note suggested.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 15:39
  • Tomorrow, his competitor will claim to be pre-pre-preemptive.
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 17:54

2 Answers 2


It's an example of using repetition to duplicate, enhance or exaggerate the meaning.

Preemptive (no hyphen required) refers to doing something ahead of time, before something else is likely to happen.

The exact meaning of your customer's email depends on the circumstances. If some other preemption might occur anyway, he could be saying he's preempting that other preemption — doing something else, before the other preemption has a chance to take place.

However, it could also be that he's just exaggerating about the (one possible) preemption, suggesting that he's doing it even earlier than usual.

Some other examples:

Sheila's cookie recipe was already super delicious, but by adding chocolate chips, they came out super, super delicious.

Martha had such a good time on her vacation, she said she'd remember it forever and ever.

Sheila's cookies were already more than delicious, but the extra "super" is saying the cookies were even more delicious than that.

Even if Martha remembers her vacation forever, it's not possible to remember it any longer. Adding "and ever" can't change that, so it's just trying to exaggerate something that can't be literally extended.

Because repeating a word (or part of a word) can be used to achieve different effects, the context is essential to understand the literal meaning.

  • Nicely done +1)
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 18:06

A pre-emptive strike was once memorably described as meaning "getting your retaliation in first".

Pre-emption is taking the initiative, and doing something proactively, before a situation can arise that you would more normally have to respond to, or take account of.

Pre-pre-emption is just a neologism emphasising how much early this bird is, presumably because the bird expects to get a particularly juicy worm that way.

  • I don't think a pre-emptive strike necessarily means that it is getting your retaliation first. What does any bird have to do with the context?
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 16:36
  • 1
    @Rathony: It's the proverbial early bird who gets the worm. Nothing wrong with Euan's usage there. Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 17:16
  • @FumbleFingers Do you really think I don't know what such an easy phrase means?
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 17:38

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