Beforehand

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Michael, May 10, 2012.

  1. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

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    What do you suppose THAT means? It's such a common .... saying? I was thinking maybe: Before I hand you X, I expect Y.

    Does that sound about right? :confused:

    I think I used it last something like: Thanks for letting me know beforehand, we can meet on such and such a day and blah blah blah...

    So, in this case they've told me X and that was before Y was to occur. Kind of fit with my example... a little.
     
  2. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    22,767
    I'll give you the same advice that I give Saint: Please develop the habit of looking words up in Dictionary.com ! Their definitions are much more expansive than anything you'll get from a discussion site. The exceptions, of course, are idioms and slang, which is what Saint usually focuses on.

    The word "beforehand" means simply "in advance" or "in anticipation."
    I've called a meeting of the entire project team tomorrow at 2pm. Please read the reports attached to this memo beforehand, so you'll understand all the problems we're having and be prepared to offer solutions.

    Uncle Max is coming on Friday to discuss some family business that we have to take care of now that Grandma has died. I know you don't get along with him and I don't blame you. I thought I would let you know beforehand, in case you'd rather not be home when he comes.​
     
  3. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

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    23,052
    Fr I'm petty sure he knows what it means and is asking where it comes from "beforehand" "before hand"
     
  4. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    22,767
    Oddly enough, I can't find the etymology of this word anywhere. All the dictionary tells me is that it's a combination of "before" and "hand" (which should be accompanied by "duh!"), and it sends me to those two words to look up their etymologies.

    I cannot find any current or historical meaning of the word "hand" that would explain this usage as a stand-in for "event," "time," "possibility," etc.

    There is no word "afterhand" with the opposite meaning. We do have the word "afterward," but there's no opposite word "beforeward."

    Of course there's "forward," but it's not an antonym of "afterward." It's about physical direction of motion or location, although it can be used metaphorically for any type of progress, such as "moving a project forward." Its antonym is "backward" for motion or "rearward" for location, not "afterward."

    It appears that "beforehand" and "afterward" are antonyms, although the relationship is awkward and not totally precise. I'm stumped!

    Oh no, now I've introduced the word "awkward." :(
     
  5. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

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    When something was imminent, it was described as "at hand".

    "Victory is at hand"

    Beforehand perhaps, is an offshoot of this modality.
     
  6. Epictetus here & now Registered Senior Member

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    So the 'hand' part seems to mean 'all of this stuff we have been talking about' as in, "I wish you had told me beforehand" = before all this crap that just happened, happened -and then it probably never would have happened. It is an interesting phrase in that its etymology seems to be in hand gestures - that's why it's been difficult to find its etymology, that and the fact that it is not one, but two very common words.
     
  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    22,767
    Yes. But it can also be used in the future tense. "I don't know what the representatives from the consulting firms are going to ask us at the bidders' conference next week. We had each better be sure we learn as much as possible about our own parts of the project beforehand, so we can answer their questions."

    As for "at hand," that seems like a reasonable shortening of "almost in my/our/your hand." "Beforehand" doesn't seem to carry the same sense of "hand" as a receptacle for things to be gathered into.
     
  8. Epictetus here & now Registered Senior Member

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    555
    All right, sure the future tense too; as in:before all this crap that is just about to happen, happens -and then it quite possibly won't happen.

    And I wasn't thinking of the hand in this phrase as a receptacle, but about the gesturing hand's role in a vague reference to 'whatever' that it assumes just by the speaker waving his hand about a bit.
     
  9. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

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    2,976
    I think "hand" is associated with action or work, so beforehand could be seen as "before the action", or "before the work". In swedish the translation for beforehand is "förväg" which is a combination of "before" and "path/road".


    Since hand is associated with action or work it could have been further associated with events, so that beforehand means "before the event".
     

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