Wrong Word Wednesday #16

Every week I will demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the one intended. Sometimes this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence. Unfortunately, the mistake is usually so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television

Best / Ultimate

Oh dear. The word “ultimate” has been hijacked away from its original meaning. Everybody does it. It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Muhammed Ali is “the ultimate boxer”? No he isn’t.

The iPhone 5 is the ultimate smartphone? I doubt it!

Muhammed Ali is the greatest boxer. The iPhone 5 might be the best smartphone available yet but they are not the “ultimate” – because that does not mean “the best” and it never did.

So what does it mean?

Ultimate: Adjective meaning “The last one”. Muhammed Ali could not have been the ultimate boxer because many boxers followed in his wake. The iPhone 5 cannot be the ultimate smartphone because no doubt there will be an iPhone 6. The term is everywhere, yet it has been hijacked to mean “the best”… funny that “penultimate” hasn’t been hijacked to mean “the second best” though!

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