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Preponed meetings and other time travels

A coinage from India may help us keep our schedules straight.

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"Hello, I'm calling to see whether we can prepone our meeting. I know it's been on the calendar for Friday afternoon at 2, but it's a holiday weekend, and so over in this office we're wondering whether we could do it Thursday at 4, instead."

You may have never run across prepone, dear reader, but its meaning should be clear from the example. It's a late 20th-century coinage used in South Asia as a counterpart of postpone.

In late March, for instance, an Indian outfit called ran an item about Sonia Gandhi, president of India's Congress Party, officially opening what's "believed to be" the largest tulip garden in Asia.

"The garden was scheduled to be opened next month but was preponed in view of early blooming of the tulips," the announcement read. (Arguably it was the opening rather than the garden that was preponed, but they didn't ask me.)

In mid-April, reported on a couple who were to be married in a hot-air balloon 600 feet off the ground. Originally set for late afternoon, "the marriage was preponed to 7.30 in the morning due to the bad weather conditions."

I've run into prepone often enough to wonder whether and how it will spread beyond South Asia. Does this new coinage meet a need? Yes, albeit a specialized one, like those long-handled spoons that are so useful for stirring iced tea.

The meaning of postpone, which comes from Latin words meaning "to place after," is familiar and unambiguous: to make something, typically a meeting or an event, later.

But to go in the other direction, I'm not sure the idiom to move something up (as contrasted with moving or pushing it back) is completely clear.


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