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Reprinted from News-To-Use, Vol 2, No. 4.
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The Penultimate Word Test

In Crazy English, author Richard Lederer recounts the story of a naval commander defending Star Wars, the Strategic Defense Initiative. "In Star Wars," the commander intoned,"America has finally come up with the penultimate defense system."

Did you catch the gaffe? Penulti-mate, which sounds as though it should mean "the absolute ultimate" means, in fact, "next to last" or the one before ultimate. Needless to say, the penultimate defense system wouldn't make you feel very secure.

English is filled with words that don't really mean what they sound as if they mean. See if you know the real mean-ing of the following words.

1. Antebellum

a) against women
b) against war
c) against after the war
d) before the war

2. Apiary

a) a school for mimics
b) a place where apes are keep
c) a place where bees are kept
d) cupboard for peas

3. Aquiline

a) resembling an eagle
b) relating to water
c) relating to
synchronized swimming
d) resembling a porcupine

4. Cupidity

a) strong desire for wealth
b) a strong desire for love
c) a strong desire for
amusement parks
d) obtuseness

5. Disinterested

a) lacking a bank account
b) unbiased
c) bored
d) lacking interest

6. Enormity

a) great wickedness
b) great size
c) normal state
d) cowardice

7. Herpetology is the study of

a) herbs
b) herpes
c) female pets
d) reptiles

8. Hippophobia is the fear of

a) hippopotami
b) horses
c) getting fat
d) hippies

9. Ingenuous

a) insincere
b) innocent
c) clever
d) mentally dull

10. Meretricious

a) falsely attractive
b) worthy
c) good tasting
d) diseased

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