Pynchon uses this word A LOT in GR. What the fuck does it mean? He uses it more than Dan Brown uses "plethora." (DaVinciCode is quite plethoric with the word.)
According to Answers.com "preterite" means simply the gramatical past tense.
I can't find any defintion that seems to explain Pynchon's usage.
Sometimes, du'h, I get the feeling that Pynchon is trying to say something else with this word, that "the preterite" are to him the non-chosen ones in the biblical sense, the ones left behind, the discarded, the un-special, the opposite of those dozen dozen "the elite" or "the elect"... Thus the preterite are the ones who have remained on earth after God has taken his bat and ball and gone home, basically. Am I right in thinking this? Could I get a PhD in Literature if I followed this up for thousand pages? Or am I 180 degrees out? Who can help?
... "reading soup recipes and finding in every bone and cabbage leaf paraphrases of himself. [...] picking up rusted beer cans, rubbers yellow with preterite seed, Kleenex wadded to brain shapes hiding preterite snot, preterite tears, newspapers, broken glass, pieces of automobile, days when in superstition and fright he could make it all fit, seeing clearly in each an entry in a record" GR 625-26
Here he just seems to mean "discarded."
Let's go with that. We'll find the true etymology some other time.
There is a related religious term - "preterism" - which means a belief that all the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled and the we are at the famed "end of days" and have been drumming our eschatological fingers on the table-top waiting the imminent second coming since the fall and sacking of the temple back in 72 AD. A believer in "preterism" is a "preterist" not a "preterite."
E@L's lapsed-Catholicism morphed into lacksadaisical-atheism isn't helping him much with this - seems yet another weird Protestant cult, if anything.
Anyway, enough on Pynchon - we all admit he's weird. Now apparently I've to find something by Samuel Delany. Please Sir, Mr Xeno, can I finish Planet Simpson first?
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
Here's a stab:
And, at the end, a question for you.
Like I said, some Protestant cult.