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why I asked about Penultimate: - The inexplicable charisma of the rival [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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why I asked about Penultimate: [Nov. 11th, 2005|05:01 pm]
Just me.
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Lemony Snicket's new book is called "The Penultimate Peril". It is the 12th book in an announced 13 book series. As "penultimate" is a word that is often misused, I wonder if this book will have a positive effect on the next generation, enabling them to correctly understand "penultimate" as "the thing before the last thing" rather than "if ultimate means 'awesome', then penultimate must mean 'totally awesome'". (Or am I the only person who's ever noticed this misuse of "penultimate"?)

But then I had a thought: what if the book achieves the exact opposite? Since previous book titles include "The Miserable Mill" and "The Grim Grotto", what if today's kids decide penultimate is a word meaning "Something really terrible, especially if Count Olaf does it"? It could totally change the mis-meaning of the word! I wonder if another book in the series, "The Ersatz Elevator", will cause an eventual misuse of ersatz to "evil" instead of 'fake' or 'substitute'.

The other word I see abused in this fashion is "erstwhile", which means "former" and is often used in newspapers phrases like "the erstwhile mayor" . The word seems to have taken a U-turn in popular memory to mean "esteemed" or "flamboyant" or some other generally positive adjective. I was once called "the erstwhile lara7" on a discussion list, which made me wonder 1) what the poster thought he was saying with the adjective and 2) if I was "erstwhile", who was I now if lara7 was my former title or identity?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: rimrunner
2005-11-11 11:08 pm (UTC)

ssc:

I have misused "penultimate" that way.

But that was years ago...
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[User Picture]From: mad_eponine
2005-11-11 11:46 pm (UTC)
d00d!

If you thought the fall of the Soviet regime, or the Ersatz Empire as Ronald Reagan called it, was an awesome fin de siecle (that's French for "end of the Sickle"), you should check out the end of the 19th century! It was so totally penultimate because it was all artistic and flamboyant and decadent and shit! I bet it was so erstwhile!
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[User Picture]From: bassfingers
2005-11-11 11:47 pm (UTC)
A friend of mine once saw a high-end, haughty audio advertisement that announced "your penultimate amplifier!!!" To which he responded, "Do they know something I don't?"
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[User Picture]From: mad_eponine
2005-11-12 12:22 am (UTC)

speaking of cunning linguism...

If you don't already, you should listen to Says You!, Saturdays at 6 Pee Em on KUOW.
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[User Picture]From: lemur68
2005-11-12 01:47 am (UTC)
Just pretend people are actually saying "pan-ultimate," which would mean "all awesome."
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