The word for today is penultimate.
I was reading a review of The Dark Knight today over at DVD Talk and the reviewer made an incorrect word choice that I encounter often in print and in conversation, and it inspired me to post about it. Not that anyone is actually reading this, but at least I can say I did my part.
I'll quote the passage from the review:
"Headlined by a penultimate performance from the late Heath Ledger..."
See, it's a common mistake because it seems like the 'pen' prefix is emphasizing the 'ultimate' (as if it made it even more ultimate than before) but, in reality, the word means 'next to last' so its use here is wrong. I guess, in this context, it could be argued that Heath Ledger's ultimate performance was his subsequent suicide, but I'm pretty confident that this was not the writer's intent.
Yeah, I'm being a little cheeky.
Anyway, I kind of expect to see it coming from the odd blogger, board poster, or possibly a high school student, but I find it a little embarrassing when professional writers make this mistake. And it happens often enough that it gets me a little wrankled.
Coming up next time on Tragedies of English Language Use, the double negative, irregardless.