the penultimate post

Oof. It’s 11:00 p.m., and I have yet to post anything. It would be kinda silly to make it this far into NaBloPoMo and blow it on the penultimate day.

I’m quite fond of the word penultimate. It’s one of those words that gets misused frequently, often in a way suggesting that the user thinks it means something like “more ultimate that ultimate.” But ultimate is just that: final, unique. The end all. Penultimate? It’s the second to last. It’s not quite the be-all and end-all of ultimate.

I suppose that’s much of the appeal. It’s the not-quite. Most of us never achieve the level of ultimate for most things. Who among us will get to be the ultimate authority on some subject? Will we ever achieve ultimate happiness? Ultimate calm? Bake the ultimate chocolate cake? I, for one, am not sure I’d want to. Because wouldn’t that mean I’d reached the end?

Penultimate is a word that gets used frequently in phonology. We talk a lot about the penultimate syllable of word. For example, in a given language it might be the penultimate syllable, or the penult (as many like to call it, skipping the formality of the polysyllabic phrase) that bears the word-level stress. Or you might talk about the antepenultimate syllable. Or even the preantepenultimate. It really amuses me that there is a word that means “4th from the end.” (Mind you, when talking “ultimate” syllables, phonologists tend to say “final.” It’s seems somewhat anticlimactic.)

As usual, there is a backlog of posts I’d like to write, but clearly I’m not going to manage anything of them now. (Have I mentioned that I am a very slow writer? I type, I delete, I re-type, I edit. And often I delete and re-type once more.) So rather than write about something that might take some thinking, I’m apparently going to just ramble on for a bit just for the sake of rambling. Because ultimately, that’s what’s blogging is often about.

Oh, and one last thing, since I like to have at least one picture in a post. Can anyone identify this?