Friday, November 02, 2007

Pre- This

Long before the insects swarmed upon my life, tearing it apart, threatening my marriage, and temporarily removing my son from my life -- that is, in the days before I didn’t think about throwing myself in front of a bus -- a friend of Wife’s came out with a work of non-fiction that garnered some decent publicity.

This was the friend’s fourth book: he’s had two short-story collections and another work of non-fiction published to date, and has been pretty durn successful, by my estimation. He’s sold a good number of volumes, and, unlike most of us, makes a living through writing.

But not all is well in the land of Successful Writer: this writer’s latest book, according to his publisher, hasn’t moved enough copies before it was published. The publisher was worried before the book went on sale, or “pre-sales,” as she put it.

One can ascribe this sorry state of events to the Internet, in which “pre-sales” are logged and displayed on Perhaps it’s simply a reflection of the desperate straits in which publishers find themselves. Or one can say that Wife’s friend is simply the victim of a short-sighted, unimaginative sluggo marketer whose whole modus operandi is sales, sales, sales (or, her whole m.o. is simply holding on to her job).

While I am tempted to launch venom at the sorry state of the publishing business, I will turn this entry into a rant about “pre-” and its growing use in the vernacular. (Because I feel like it.)

Prevent pre-boarding

“Pre-sales” sounds like something a business consultant devised after an afternoon of heavy drinking. Like that nefarious “pre-boarding” that you will hear at an airport gate, it incorrectly refers to the interregnum between an event “unofficially” happening and it actually happening. But you can’t sell something before you sell it, just as you can’t board a plane before you board it. It is all Zen, my child.

There are legitimate uses for this overused, abused prefix "pre-". You can be a pre-law or pre-med major, since it's a time when you're not actually in law or medical school. You can make pre-game plans, do pre-interview preparation, or listen to the works of the late, great Jacqueline Du Pre.

But perhaps those geniuses of "pre-" are on to something. We should extend “pre-sales” to other areas of life besides books. It could open up a whole new realm of stupid, idiotic business-like words.

To wit:

Pre-driven cars: No, not a “pre-owned” car, or, in the old fashioned, quaint way of putting it, a “used car.” Pre-driven cars have new car smell, fresh tires, and an engine block as clean as a hospital floor. That’s because nobody’s driven it yet! Get it?

Pre-pre-owned clothes/furniture/CDs, etc.: “Pre-pre-owned” is the new “new.” “I want a new Armani suit, not some used suit I could find at the consignment store.” No, it’s “I want a pre-pre-owned Armani suit, not some pre-owned suit at the consignment store.” Get it? (The brilliance of this should be obvious by now).

Pre-eaten Hot, Hot, HOT Apple Pies at McDonalds’: You get to eat your lip melting, tongue scalding, mouth burning hot apple pies, not only before anyone else, but before anyone has actually tried eating one, ruined his or her vocal chords, thrown the pie to the floor, and you’ve picked it up and feel your hand turn to mush from the 8,000 degrees radiating from the radioactive liquid magma filling.

(This is what happens when you’re eight years old and bite into a Mickey D’s hot apple pie for the first time. You’re scarred for life.)

Not buying it

Pre-Fucked Pornstars™: This sounded funny when I first thought of it. But I don’t know if I mean “virgins” or somebody who has already done the dirty deed that day.

Offensive? Yeah. Will I trademark it? Yeah.

Pre-seating: Like it’s cousin “pre-boarding,” one pre-seats a movie, play, baseball game, or rock concert. However, I believe we should extend this idea to all aspects of life, including seating at the dinner table, sofa, office chair, seat on the bus, and toilet. Especially the toilet. Speaking of which…

Pre-crapping: Those special folks get to toss a loaf before you do. Are you prairie-doggin’ yet?

Pre-insane Bookfraud: Sorry, sir, but I hate to tell you “pre-insane Bookfraud” is out of stock.