Complaint Box | Pre-Ponderance

Complaint Box
Got a Gripe?

Get a grip. Send your rant — no more than 500 words, please — to: [email protected], with a subject line of your last name, followed by “Complaint Box” and the topic. Detailed instructions are below.

Every day, it seems, I am preapproved, prequalified or precertified for yet another credit card or home equity loan that I don’t want. I already have enough credit cards, thank you, so that I can prepay my daughter’s college tuition, allowing her to preregister for courses (pre-med? pre-law?). I can use those cards to pile up air miles so that I can preboard a plane at the airport (after pre-check-in, of course). I can even preorder items during the annual presale event at a major department store.

I’m not sure when this prefix started appending itself to almost every verb. Perhaps the generation that went to preschool and pre-K were naturally predisposed to its possibilities.

Having gone to regular old kindergarten, I find myself nostalgically thinking back to a time when I simply registered for courses, boarded planes and was approved for loans. I never took pre-algebra or pre-calculus courses in school, as is customary now; beginning algebra and beginning calculus seemed to do the trick rather nicely. (Does anyone take post-algebra or post-calculus?) Nor do I remember doing pre-writing in English class; we simply wrote. There was a time, not so long ago, when signing a prenuptial agreement was not a precondition for marriage. But that was before Baby Boomers were all attending their preretirement seminars, and our country was launching pre-emptive strikes on foreign nations.

I recall buying my first used car a few decades ago. There are no used cars anymore, only pre-owned cars. I suppose we’re to believe that the previous owner never really used the car, only kept it for show in pristine condition. And we don’t always put our faith in used car salesmen, but pre-owned car sales associates (there are no more salesmen) are, presumably, utterly trustworthy.

Really, now, is there a more overused, silly and pretentious syllable in the English language than pre? Sure, it has its legitimate uses, but 95 percent of the time we can simply drop it. So let’s do that — before we all come down with a severe case of post-grammatic stress syndrome.

Michael Golden, a freelance writer, lives in Great Neck, on Long Island, where he recently retired from teaching middle school.

If you wish to submit a Complaint Box essay, please send it as an attachment and in the body of the e-mail to [email protected], along with your name, address, phone number and e-mail. In the subject line of the e-mail, type your last name, followed by “Complaint Box” and the subject of your complaint. Essays can be anywhere between 100 and 500 words. Because we receive so many submissions, we can only get back to those whose complaints are being considered for publication. If you do not hear from us, thank you anyway, and feel free to submit it elsewhere.

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