Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's the Penultimate Epicenter of Ignorance

Nick, gun-jumper that he is, spoiled this post in his comment on my inaugural language rant. Indeed his comment was more amusing and succinct than anything I could write, but I'm going ahead and posting it anyway. So there.

I can't count the number of times I've heard or read someone---frequently someone in the media, who should have received some kind of education in the language arts----use "epicenter" to mean simply "center," rather than "the point on the surface directly above the center." Frequently, the word is misused in this way when discussion something other than the physical center or centroid. That distiction doesn't justify the error, however.

I've also heard or seen "penultimate" used to mean simply "ultimate," rather than "next to last," innumerable times.

I can only guess that the speaker or writer feels that a word like "center" or "ultimate" simply isn't as formal or fancy as they'd like. Perhaps, but it is correct.

1 comment:

  1. I'm guessing that the now common misuse of the word "random" in place of "arbitrary" is forthcoming as well.

    Of course, as an anti-grammar nazi (grammar communist?) I've never been a big fan of prescriptive ideas of sentence structure or usage. But the more papers I grade, the more I cringe at inartistic incoherence.