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Penultimate Pre-eminence

June 27, 2010

On Thursday, I was sitting in my Seattle hotel room and listening to Gormley on Newstalk650.  (Isn’t the internet grand?)  He mentioned how annoying it is when people say “penultimate” to mean the very best of something, the final stage.  Like a “penultimate achievement.”  Penultimate actually means next to last.

This reminded me of the word “preeminent”.  I know that the word is actually used to mean that something is outstanding but I always hear the word as “pre – eminent” which means before eminence.  It sounds as if the person is bragging about being almost eminent in their field.  Did I mention that the U of S used this word quite liberally on a previous version of its home page?  Thankfully they’ve dropped it.

The groups penultimate achievement was to be preeminent in their field but ultimately they were eminent.

I’m such a geek.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 28, 2010 2:39 pm

    Now I’m so confused. I can’t find words to describe my befuddlement or confounding state of perplexity, so I’ll attempt to cartoon about it sometime soon in Thinkering.

    And yes, Michele, you are a geek 🙂

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