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Mar. 21 2012

Ephemera, penultimate, and twerp: oh, my!

By Dyana Neal | Posted in Host Blogs | 2 Comments

Whether we like it or not, languages change & evolve (or devolve, depending on whom you ask.) Words & expressions, both formal & colloquial, fall in & out of favor. I recently aired Mark’s interview about the Smith College Club of Baltimore’s 54th Annual Used Book Fair, during which the word “ephemera” came  up in conversation. A wonderful word, yet not often used outside of the antiques & collectibles business these days, & I can’t imagine why.

Another word I’ve long been fond of, yet which has largely slipped into obscurity, is penultimate. I first came across it in “Cheaper by the Dozen”, which I read when I was around 10, & had to look it up. Since then, I’ve been in more than one singing group in which the maestro or maestra has referred to “the penultimate bar” of a piece & have been relieved not to have to ask what on Earth they’re talking about. Besides, penultimate sounds so much more interesting – perhaps even more flattering, in an odd way – than next-to-last.

Many of the more recent slang terms for a person one finds insignificant or contemptible are unprintable here. (I love my job, folks!) So, if someone is annoying you, here’s a great, circa-1923 word to describe them: twerp. I’m sure most of us have several occasions to mutter that one every day, especially while commuting.

Anyone care to use all three of these in a sentence?

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Dyana is WBJC's midday host. Her full bio can be read here.

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