Minglish (mangling English for professionals)

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John Dodds
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:06 am Post

Notwithstanding our own efforts at the coalface to wrestling language into submission and create what we hope is readable fiction, what about the professionals who get paid to write rubbish! I don't mean authors, I mean the business community.

Today's pet minglish award goes to everyone with products to sell (the latest I saw was on Tor.com):

"available to pre-order"

Now, is it me, or is pre-order not reduncancy?

If you order something you expect the order to be placed and the thing you ordered will arrive at some stage. If you reserve it, it may not be ready yet but you are guaranteed to get it when it arrives.
What's wrong with "reserve your copy now" or "order now for September 30 delivery" or whatever?

What in the name of God does "pre-order" mean? You cannot, as far as I know order something before you order it.

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geoffh
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:36 am Post

You might already know this, but I think pre-ordering usually refers to situations where the company does not yet have stock to supply, usually because the item is a new model still in production. Perhaps they can't even give the customer a guarantee when or even if it ever will become available.

In any case I've always imagined - without any professional knowledge at all of marketing etc. - that the company is trying (1) to reduce the customer's expectation of a rapid delivery, while still getting some idea of likely demand (2) to provide a release valve for those customers who are always asking "When will it be available?" - pre-order Scrivener anyone?

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John Dodds
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:46 am Post

I take your point. But "reserve" would cover that, even if the thing was still in production. Pre-order is simply another fatuous corporate expression that means nothing. Or, to put it as the Plain English campaign would explain it, because the phrase contains all these implied caveats (which the reader doesn't know exist) and means the company is abnegating its responsibility. In other words, not taking ownership.

You seem to know what pre-order means. But does anyone else? That's my point. Far better if the company says "you're welcome to order it, but we can't guarantee it will arrive because it's still in production/might never be ready/cost more than we planned. Yadda, yadda. See what I'm getting at?

John

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geoffh
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:33 am Post

I agree totally that it's a confusing term - and maybe that accounts for its popularity with the companies that use it.

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Jaysen
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:33 pm Post

I think that a "street" view of "pre-order" is to order a product before it is available for sale. Which is kind of stupid since you just bought the "not yet for sale" item because someone sold it to you. Which, in turn, means that not matter who you slice or dice this phrase the pedantic can be outraged with legitimacy.

I would suggest that this term is brought to you as "ameri-biz-lish" and as such, is as good as you are entitled to expect when selling to the idled masses.
Jaysen

I have a wife and 2 kids that I can only attribute to a wiggle, a giggle, and the realization that she was out of my league so I might as well be happy with her as a friend. 26 years marriage later, I can't imagine life without her. -Me 10/7/09

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Jana
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:36 pm Post

Or how about the traffic signs that say, "Slow Children"?

How do these children feel about being labeled as slow?

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Jaysen
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:53 pm Post

In my area the signs for "stop ahead" and "reduced speed ahead" are now being replace with signs that are a picture of the upcoming sign. I want to see the DOT options for "slow children", "deaf person area", and "handicapped person area" (used for everything but deaf).

The lawsuits should be interesting.
Jaysen

I have a wife and 2 kids that I can only attribute to a wiggle, a giggle, and the realization that she was out of my league so I might as well be happy with her as a friend. 26 years marriage later, I can't imagine life without her. -Me 10/7/09

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AmberV
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:52 pm Post

I love how “pre-ordering” has become a complete parody of itself in the past few years. It once made sense[1] to put down money for something early, even if there wasn’t a discount, if the item was destined to sell out rapidly. Nowadays you see “pre-order now!” for full-price items, sixty days in advance for a digital download! What? Is the server going to run out of inventory on release day?

Evidently it works, for they keep doing it.



  1. I use this very loosely, as for most things this really doesn’t make any sense at all. Honestly, do you really need that copy of XP on the day it comes out? Surely you can wait a week, or a month. For opera tickets though, purchasing before the day of the event is the only logical solution.
.:.
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