Penultimate is one of my favorite words. It has a very rare combination. It’s fun to say. It’s fun to hear. And it has a cool meaning. It puts it in the same company as archipelago and onomatopoeia (Side note: I love the fact that onomatopoeia just might be the least onomatopoeic word there is).
That fact that penultimate is fun to say and hear is kind of obvious. Just say the word: penultimate. It feels good in the mouth and throat. Then listen to yourself say the word: penultimate. It’s a perfect combination of legato and staccato. It’s very pleasing.
The cool meaning of penultimate is a little less obvious. It means second to last. At first glance, it doesn’t even seem like we need a word for second to last. But it is really useful. Often, a penultimate event is the last normal occurrence of that event. The last one is always so focused on being the last. And in stories, the final scene is usually wrap-up. The climax happens in the penultimate scene. Once you start seeing the significance of penultimate things, there’s no going back.
If you’re already familiar with penultimate, I hope you take this opportunity to dust it off and appreciate it anew. If you’re new to penultimate, I’m a little jealous of you. Take some time, get to know it. You’ll have good times in your future.