I first wrote this draft over a year ago about an RPG product that I don’t recall or even what website I saw it mentioned. I kept it in my drafts folder not sure if I should publish it. Yesterday, Goodman Games emailed everyone who backed Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection that they were doing another Grimtooth’s Traps. Will they send out a sticker for our book, so it will now say, Penultimiate Traps Collection? For some reason, that email just rubbed me the wrong way.
Every so often I see an advertisement for a product, movie, or something else that is proclaimed “The Ultimate Whatever It Is….”
Originally ultimate is from Latin and means last.
Ultimate seems in many ways to have morphed into a word for excitement, coolness, pizzazz, etc.
Language is fluid and meanings change, but when you know a bit about the roots of words and their meanings, and you have the “tradition” of a word means what it means, it can be hard to let go of and accept the new usage. I have studied four languages in addition to English. Words only have meaning in context of the sentences around them. However, I seem to have a mental block against that concept with the word ultimate.
I think I have an easier time handling the usage of ultimate when it means cool, because many who use it to mean last, don’t really mean last.
Sometimes they mean penultimate, which means “next to last”, or antepenultimate, which is “the one before next to last.” I took a semester of Koine Greek oh so many years ago, and these words based in Latin were used to describe which syllable of a Greek word has the emphasis. Actually, penult means “next to last syllable in a word.” Antepenult – “third from last syllable in a word”. In both cases, “ult” is an abbreviated form of “ultimate”.
For me, the word ultimate has become a red flag that alerts me to an additional level of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Almost any product that calls itself the ultimate in our culture of new/improved/better/faster is just a marketing gimmick. I supposed I shouldn’t fault any RPG author or publisher for doing what it takes to market their products, but calling something the ultimate, when it isn’t will rarely sit well with me.