Sunday, January 18, 2009

642nd Post - A Minor Annoyance

I want to nip something in the bud.

Lately I have been hearing, and reading, a misuse of a word whose meaning I have known for many years. I don't know where these people have picked it up, this word; but where ever it is, they're getting the word wrong, and looking foolish as a result. I consider it my sacred duty to help these people out. They'll thank me for it some day. And they'll be welcome.

The word is "penultimate".

I have heard people, otherwise smart people, say something like, "He's the penultimate example" of whatever. "She's the penultimate rugby player". Whatever. Blah, blah, blah.

I am guessing they're thinking that "penultimate" means awesome, nifty, of incredible quality.

They're wrong. All of them.

"Penultimate", as you can see verified by clicking here, just means the second to the last in a sequence. If you have 10 things, like 10 monkeys, the 9th monkey is the penultimate monkey, because there is one more in that list of primates. When you say, "That's the penultimate monkey!", you're just pointing to monkey number 9. You are not commenting on the quality of that monkey relative to the other monkeys in that group. You're just saying, "That's monkey number 9". The final monkey, number 10, is standing next to him. Hello, monkey number 10.

Gotta get back to transcribing the interview. Nearly done!! In fact, I will be transcribing the penultimate segment this evening.


No comments: