Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 28 19:49:18 UTC 2008

I should have made it clear that "pre-tell" appears to be used by
makers and users of indicators and not by gamblers, so that, e.g. an
alarm that goes off *before* the critical pressure is reached is, for
them, a *pre*-tell, as opposed to a tell, an alarm that goes off only
*when* the critical pressure is reached. Whatever mechanical engineer
coined the phrase probably that it and he are pretty hip.

Besides, this is English, a language in which it's possible to find a
context in which to make nearly any random string make sense. It's
probably why the pioneers of generativism chose "word-salad" over
"nonsense." And probably why the distinctions between, e.g. "bring"
and "take" and "to" and "for" are falling away.


On Jan 28, 2008 9:51 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Eggcorn?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 8:57 AM -0500 1/28/08, Wilson Gray wrote:
> >"_Pre tell_ why was Georgia the ONLY state that went even more
> >Republican in 2006?"
> >
> >3140 raw - e.g., also includes the meaning "preliminary indicator or
> >indication," combining standard pre- with gambling technical term,
> >"tell," and usually spelled "pre-tell" - hits
> >
> Interesting.  Of course we can't know without counting how many of
> these are in fact compositional (with the second meaning, which is a
> little redundant in itself since a "pre-tell" would essentially
> amount to a "tell" in e.g. poker).  There are also 21,200 raw hits
> for "prey tell" (most of which appear to result from genuine
> confusion or reanalysis), which indicates that the curious
> quasi-serial-verb nature of "pray tell" gives many hearers pause.  Or
> paws.
> (As for "prey" vs. "pray", I was never sure which of "praying mantis"
> and "preying mantis" is the original and which the folk etymology,
> since both make a kind of sense.  The Latin name, _Mantis religiosa_,
> indicates that the former came first.)
> LH
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