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Opening Arguments

Today's quiz

What is the preantepenultimate word in this sentence?

Hint: "Penultimate" does not mean "ultimate, only more so."


Thu, 02/22/2007 - 6:09am


Thu, 02/22/2007 - 6:55am

I guess "word."

Penultimate means next to ultimate, ante means before, as does pre. So I think that means we move back three words from the ultimate word "sentence" and land on "word."

But for all of that I am fairly doubtful that I'd find preantepenultimate in Webster's dictionary.

Leo Morris
Thu, 02/22/2007 - 7:41am

Actually, it was in Webster's at least until 1913 (from what I've been able to find out so far), and you are quite right; it is now considered an obsolete word. The form "preantenultimate' is still listed in Webster's Revised Unabridged.

Larry Morris
Thu, 02/22/2007 - 7:57am

Thank God it is obsolete, ... now I can sleep tonight knowing I'll never have to figure out when to use it, ...

Leo Morris
Thu, 02/22/2007 - 8:15am

Don't forget your postprandial glass of wine and your antejentacular cup of coffee.

brian stouder
Thu, 02/22/2007 - 12:24pm

Well if you watch Formula One racing in the early morning hours (and listen to the marvelous accents of the englishmen in the announce booth), as I have for the past 14 years or so - then you learn all sorts of good words like "penultimate" (they invariably refer to the second-to-last race as the 'penultimate' one), "lurid", "aluminium", "jag-you-are", "petrol", "lorrie", "course marshal", "paddock", and "park ferme" to name a few.

plus, you'll begin referring to your garage as a GAREazh, and to the decals on any race car as "livery"

Leo Morris
Thu, 02/22/2007 - 12:49pm

OK, but I refuse to ever write "programme."

Steve Towsley
Thu, 02/22/2007 - 4:40pm

I have been guilty of using British spellings occasionally, like "travelling." And we still struggle with our PC character sets over the "accents ague" above the e's in the French word "resume."

I think the spelling "cigaret" was popular at least as early as the 1950s, and I prefer it, but obviously "cigarette" is going to be our generally accepted spelling all the way to the item's fade-out from the mainstream.

It's a big topic, and one we'll probably see a lot more discussion about in the next few years. There seems to be a critical mass developing on the subject in the U.S.

Leo Morris
Thu, 02/22/2007 - 5:34pm

My pet Britishism peeve is "theatre" instead of "theater." It's always bugged me that when somebody makes it a part of their official name -- as in Embassy Theatre -- the newspaper has to to use it, even though it's pretentious and WRONG.

Sam Harvey
Sun, 03/11/2007 - 9:54pm

On what basis do you conclude that 'theatre' is wrong? Perhaps if it was spelt 'thaetre' or 'pheatre', yeah. The beauty in retaining a somewhat archaic spelling is that a word lends itself to giving up it's etymology. Would you remove the 'b' from 'debt' and lose all trace of Latin influence on our most complex shared tool just for ease of spelling?

Sam Harvey
Sun, 03/11/2007 - 9:55pm

Sorry Steve, that was for Leo...