||I need to know what this means, I have a friengd who says this often and his wife thinks of it as cursing. He says he has used this phrase all of his life but doesn,t know what it means.|
||It's a bit archaic, and abbreviated at that, but fairly straight forward. It's elliptical for "I pray thee to tell me of this subject." This old-fashioned sense of pray is along the lines of request, plea, or ask. "Please tell [me about it]."|
...and of course, a prayer is in simplest form, a request, albeit to God.|
Unless we think of praying as cursing, it's a stretch to think of it as a curse. His wife is far too sensitve, too anxious to show piety or something.
Of course, the words "pray tell" have taken on a life of their own, almost a noise word for a request for explanation. It's not all that obsolete, actually. I hear it frequently.