# Thursday Grammar: The Penultimate

## I was in a seminar my freshman year of college when one of my classmates identified “the penultimate example” of something we were reading about. I was appalled. I thought I had gone to college to get away from this … Continued

I was in a seminar my freshman year of college when one of my classmates identified “the penultimate example” of something we were reading about.

I was appalled. I thought I had gone to college to get away from this bullshit. I had to bite my tongue to keep from sneering, “The next to last example?” I was a jerk like that at the time. (Yeah, yeah, still am.)

See, penultimate means “next to last.” It does not mean “really, really ultimate”. Bonus tip: Antepenultimate means “third to last”.

Next week: Proof of proof

### 7 Comments on “Thursday Grammar: The Penultimate”

1. mlawski OTI Staff #

Now I want to know what word means really, really ultimate. Superultimate? Ultraultimate? Megaultimate?

2. Alec Harkness #

I doubt that there is a word meaning “even more ultimate”. It’d be kinda like saying “even more infinite”.

3. Stokes #

Well, the set of all positive and negative numbers is about twice as infinite as the set of all numbers greater than zero, isn’t it?

I vote for überultimate, or just ültimate for short.

4. Jean #

Wait a minute. Hold on. Is antepenultimate really THIRD to last, or is it actually SECOND to last?

If ultimate is last, penultimate is FIRST (next to) to last, and hence antepenultimate is SECOND to last.

5. Matthew Wrather #

Surely, not… the last person in line is at the back, the second to last person in line is one from the back, the third to last person in line is two from the back, etc.

6. Jean #

Ooookay. You’re saying it’s like the Bible: the last shall be first. But this is the ultimate time we’ll give one to the wing-nut fundamentalists who have to take it literally.

7. Marshall #

“Next to the last” or just before the final (whatever) or “next to the ultimate”, soooo …

a good Catholic might say that Purgatory is your penultimate reward, the next to last destination before eternity,or

the 103rd floor of the Empire State bldg is the penultimate floor, one step short of the pinnacle.

Consequently, not just next to last as near the end of the line.