3

I've noticed recently the "word" pre-prepared popping up in my daily life, and if my completely selection-biased anecdotes are any evidence, it seems to be catching on.

Is there any reason why the 'pre' prefix has any meaning or use in this context, or is it just a prefix version of RAS Syndrome?

And is its usage increasing?

2

Short answer is that assuming that it is redundant might be assuming a narrow definition of the word "prepared", narrower than is common usage.

Ok, lets start with a definition. From Collins:

Prepare vb

  1. to make ready or suitable in advance for a particular purpose or for some use, event, etc: to prepare a meal; to prepare to go.
  2. to put together using parts or ingredients; compose or construct
  3. (tr) to equip or outfit, as for an expedition
  4. (Music, other) (tr) music to soften the impact of (a dissonant note) by the use of preparation
  5. be prepared (followed by an infinitive) to be willing and able (to do something): I'm not prepared to reveal these figures.

In terms of those definitions, the only definition that explicitly mentions time ("in advance") is the first one. It is possible to use prepare as in definitions 2 and 3, but use it as an adjective, and in those cases, it could be argued that adding "pre" is not redundant. "A pre-prepared lunch" implies that lunch was made in advance of lunchtime, and possibly not by the people who were going to eat it. It means "put together using parts or ingredients in advance".

Similarly, I might use some pre-prepared slides in my presentation: I didn't prepare them along with the rest of the slide show, they were already put together, I just used them. Saying that I "reused" the slides implies that they have been used before. Saying that the slides were "pre-prepared" implies that they were made earlier by someone who might be me or not, and may or may not have been used in a previous presentation.

A definition for prepared as an adjective (Collins):

adj

ready for something that is likely to happen, done or made beforehand

And preprepared as an adjective:

prepared in advance

Selectively(!) combining the adjective definitions, we can say that "preprepared" means:

ready for something that is likely to happen, made ready in advance

So you are not just ready, you deliberately made preparations in advance.

Here's an ngram. Its usage IS increasing, but it's still not a patch on "prepared in advance".

Of course, now I'm going to be as careful of my usage of the word "pre-prepared" as I am of the term "old adage".

  • Thanks for the insight. I can follow the reasoning, and I agree with it, right up until the point when I ask myself, "can you just drop the extra 'pre' and have it still make sense. And in every case the answer is yes! As you point out pre-prepared works if you consider 'prepare' to happen at a fixed point in time relative to the action you are preparing for, but you can also consider prepare to encompass everything you need to do before the action. And you're right, this is where the conflict comes in – Phill May 2 at 1:24
  • @Phill, I prepared an answer on stack exchange in response to a question. I didn't pre-prepare it because I couldn't know the question in advance. There are subtleties of time there, and you'd need to use "prepare in advance" in place of "prepare" in the second sentence, and "pre-prepare" is fewer characters. But, yes, I may be interpreting subtle meanings that are simply exaggerated (or ignored) in (increasingly) common usage. – Pam May 2 at 11:15

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