before (BEE four) noun. in this instance, before refers to when families, or individuals, went by their last names -- generally in the Old Country prior to emigrating to the USA. so as not to be identified with any particular ethnic, religious, nationality, etc. the last name was changed to appear more 'American' in order to 'fit in.'
Mordecai: 'Ma, This is Sue, the woman I told you about.'
Ma: (To herself: 'Oy vey!) What a lovely creature! I didn't catch the last name dear...'
Mordecai: (To himself: 'Oh fuck!')
Sue: 'Smith. Mrs. Goldfarb.'
Ma: 'Lovely name, what was it before dear?'
Ma: (To herself: 'Jesus Christ, a fucking shikse! My son has brought home a courve, I hope the neighbors didn't see her.')
Sue: 'Before - what Mrs. Goldfarb?'
Mordecai: (To himself: 'Jesus Christ! How do I explain this one?')
Ma: 'You'll have to excuse me, I've got (the) shpilkus. Lovely to meet you Sue.'
something that is prior to something not after
He waited 30 minutes BEFORE going swimming
The word before can also mean in front of, ahead of. It is an old meaning which is rarely used nowadays.
He stood before my eyes and didn't say a word.
A mathematical term for addition. (slang)
2 + 2 before