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This short piece of dialogue appears in the movie "Faces in the Crowd":

Bryce: Shouldn't you be handing out gold stars instead of earning yellow ribbons on FarmVille?

Anna: I was just checking pre-delays in the subway

The situation they are in is at home, at that morning, Anna was surfing the web and checking her facebook when Bryce was tidying his clothes up before going outside

I only know its audition meaning but how to correlate here?

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    To improve question, add following info: link to movie; correct capitalization in question; names of speakers of the dialog; situation they are in; def. of pre-delay in audition context and link to def. Dec 7, 2012 at 8:01
  • @jwpat7 I've done
    – SEer
    Dec 7, 2012 at 11:38
  • The only meaning of "pre-delay" I have ever heard is in reference to reverb control. I've not seen the film, but is it possible that Anna is listening to the acoustics of a subway tunnel?
    – tylerharms
    Dec 7, 2012 at 12:34
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    I agree with @Ian Atkin that it's a mistrancription. I did learn something though, because I've just checked several subtitle files, and they all have the same mistake. So obviously all those subtitle files were created from the same original source containing the error. Now I'm just left wondering why so many people bother uploading exactly the same stuff. Whatever - kudos to Ian, but this question is still Too Localised. Dec 8, 2012 at 0:53

2 Answers 2

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The sentence in question is a poorly transcribed (or misheard) subtitle. Given that the dialogue is spoken by Milla Jovovich while she is jamming food into her mouth, I can understand why that would be.

What she actually says is, "I was just checking for delays on the subway."

"Pre-delay" has no other use other than to describe the time before the onset of reverberation as used in audio recording hardware.

Where's my research? I just watched the scene about a dozen times with the volume way up. And I have a working set of ears.

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  • Then in that context before and after, what delays she was checking for on the subway? Or something related to the facebook game farmville?
    – SEer
    Dec 8, 2012 at 10:19
  • She was lying about her activity on Facebook. The delays she was purportedly checking for were in relation to her morning commute to work (one would assume). Consider this to be analogous to checking the traffic report for accidents and construction.
    – Ian Atkin
    Dec 8, 2012 at 10:31
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    Very thanks, maybe I should return to the movie instead of reading nothing but its subtitle
    – SEer
    Dec 8, 2012 at 12:40
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I recorded and uploaded this snippet of dialogue so anyone can listen and hear for themselves.

I also did an analysis of the audio using Praat: (click to enlarge)

Praat formant analysis

There are two hyphotheses: (a) that the highlighted segment is the prefix pre- (b) that the highlighted segment is the word for. In fast speech, the /r/ part of both pre- and for will be very similar (and brief) so it would be difficult to tell them apart. So we have to see if the first sound is an /f/ or a /p/.

Knowing the phonetics of English, we would expect the prefix pre- to be pronounced as [pʰɹiː], with an aspirated /p/. Aspiration is realized as a puff of air which shows up on a spectrogram as a dark band. For example, if you look at the CH-sound of checking, you see a dark band where the /tʃ/ is aspirated as [tʃʰ]. An /f/ sound, as in for, would not be aspirated and so would not show up as a dark band on the spectrogram.

Now, if we look at the spectrogram for the mystery phoneme, we see no dark band, so we conclude that it is not an aspirated sound and therefore must be an /f/ as in for.


Also, as commenters and other answerers have noted, we have a major semantic problem if we assume she is saying "pre-delays"—it doesn't make any sense.

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    Thx for your praat, which brought me the new tool to learn around, you're so professional!
    – SEer
    Dec 8, 2012 at 12:44
  • This is such a fun answer, I regret having to point out that it fails to take into account the change in plosive force that would occur if the speaker had a mouth full of food, which apparently was the case.
    – Robusto
    Dec 10, 2012 at 16:47
  • @Robusto Then how come that same food seems not to have affected the aspiration of the start of checking? Surely what works for one, works for both — or fails for both. I don’t understand where disparate results would have come from.
    – tchrist
    Dec 10, 2012 at 22:13
  • @tchrist, the gap between 'checking' and 'for' is due to Ms. Jovovich stuffing her mouth with food, so Robusto may have a point... But she clearly isn't saying "pre-delays" so my conclusion is correct even if my reasons are subject to criticism.
    – nohat
    Dec 10, 2012 at 22:21

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