17

This question used the word prepone which I had never heard of and initially thought was a typo. I was going to edit it based on the context1, but on a hunch I googled the word and found that it is a perfectly cromulent Indian English antonym to postpone

So what is the consensus here? Just because my vocabulary doesn't include prepone, does that give me reason to edit the question and replace it with a synonym that I do know?


  1. Being that the OP wanted to enter Schengen area earlier than his Visa date.
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    Of related interest at EL&U: Is “prepone” being used outside India? and perhaps What is wrong in “Please don't pluck the flowers” and other phrases used in the Indian subcontinent?, among others dealing with the particularly subcontinental uses of words and phrases like kindly, doubt, good name, needful, or sheeter to name a few. – choster Jul 9 '18 at 19:51
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    Did you ever have any doubt about the meaning of prepone? – phoog Jul 9 '18 at 21:40
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    @phoog Of course I had doubts .. I initially thought it was a typo. However last week I had just finished reading The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English so that probably pushed me to google the word. (BTW Fascinating book) – Peter M Jul 10 '18 at 1:51
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    @PeterM, I believe phoog was making a joke about the Indian use of "doubt" to mean "question". – Martha Jul 11 '18 at 22:29
  • I know prepone but not cromulent! – Ludi Jul 23 '18 at 10:25
13

My mantra is: if it makes the post clearer then edit it. Expressions and idioms that are geographically localised can be, by that same nature, not familiar to the rest of the people browsing the site so editing them often makes the post clearer.

  • While it may be unfamiliar to most, prepone is not likely to be unclear to many. – phoog Jul 9 '18 at 21:34
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    @phoog I disagree. Prepone is not a word an ESL/EFL speaker will encounter outside of the subcontinent. The back-formation is recognizable to a proficient user of English, especially one with some education, but it is needlessly burdensome to other ESL/EFL speakers. – choster Jul 9 '18 at 23:08
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    @choster You can only unravel prepone once you understand what a pone is. I couldn't make the connection with postpone and I am a native speaker. – Peter M Jul 10 '18 at 2:05
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    I agree, but be careful! You might end up changing a reasonably obvious phrase (even if it is not idiomatic for most people) into something that is completely idiomatic to your version of English - and completely incomprehensible outside it. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jul 16 '18 at 15:21
3

"Please don't pluck the flowers" has a pretty clear meaning, even if it's an Indian usage, but "prepone" doesn't have clear meaning to non-Indian speakers. I think choosing phrasing that will be easy to understand for all speakers of English, no matter the dialect or their native tongue, is always advisable, so I'd be in favour of modifying the post accordingly.

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    I was going to edit out prepone, but decided not to because, in contrast to this answer, it is a word whose meaning is perfectly clear on first hearing, at least for anyone who knows the extremely common word postpone and that the prefixes pre- and post- are opposites. – phoog Jul 9 '18 at 21:33
  • @phoog One could always insert a synonym in square brackets as an edit, to improve readability. – Jim MacKenzie Jul 9 '18 at 22:01
  • The problem with that solution here (and, no doubt, one reason why prepone is a successful word) is that there is no single word that can replace it. The only equivalent expressions I can think of are phrases, and many of them awkward at that. Can you think of one? – phoog Jul 9 '18 at 22:09
  • @phoog Alas, the original question has been edited to remove the word, so I can't come with an alternative. It's true that a phrase might be required. – Jim MacKenzie Jul 9 '18 at 22:17
  • You could always edit it back ;-) The history is available by clicking the link that says "edited 2 days ago" above the name of the most recent editor. But I didn't necessarily mean that to be a suggestion that we restore the title of this question. I was just curious whether you'd thought of a synonym, since I haven't been able to. – phoog Jul 9 '18 at 22:22
  • To me (brought up with Australian English) not plucking the flowers makes perfect sense. @Phoog I asked my wife (who works with words as a job) for an antonym to postpone and she couldn't come up with one either. – Peter M Jul 10 '18 at 2:02
1

For this site - and not the language sites - I suggest the conservative solution of immediately editing everything you don’t find in a larger dictionary. For the rest comment and seek agreement with the original poster. We all love the content we create.

We all access this site using a computer, pad or phone. I am very certain the overwhelming majority of these devices provide big dictionaries. Mine just needed to clicks to show prepone, but doesn’t show your cromulent.

-4

I would personally not replace the word (now you know it is a good word if not readily used where you live) but explain it in a few more words, in an edit.
(Or, if you are not happy to edit, in a comment.)

But that is my personal point of view and I am not sure how the site usually handles it.

  • I agree with this, especially since "explaining" the word is hardly necessary. – phoog Jul 9 '18 at 21:35
-4

I was going to edit the question on the assumption that a non-native English speaker had invented the word by analogy with postpone, but I never had any doubt about the meaning of the word. Then I saw that it is in widespread use in India, and decided to leave it.

If the word were confusing to non-Indian readers (as with words like lakh and crore), I would say it should be changed. But as it is, there's not much reason to remove it. What else could it mean?

The Wiktionary citations leave me with the suspicion that it has been independently coined on several occasions.

In short, I think the standard ought to be intelligibility by a global English-speaking audience.

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    If I start from cornpone (also a perfectly reasonable word) as the analogy, I get a pretty different picture though... What might seem obvious in (any-kind-of) English can often be weird... – Jon Custer Jul 13 '18 at 20:50
  • @JonCuster compone has in its favor the fact that it is an actual word in several languages, as well as the similarity to component, but the availability of compose probably works against it. – phoog Jul 13 '18 at 21:46
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    Note that kerning appears to have made you turn c-o-r-n into c-o-m. Not sure of the status of cornpone in other languages... – Jon Custer Jul 16 '18 at 17:11

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