(Special to Women & Children Last from the Daily Lack of News)

Our culture is obsessed with going the extra mile, giving 110 percent, leaving it all on the field. Supermarkets are open 24/7/365 to satisfy our shopping needs from A-to-Z, while athletes routinely crow about taking their games “to a whole ‘nother level.” In the midst of this maelstrom, like the voice of one hand clapping in the wilderness, stands Phil Maggitti, founder and HMFIC of National Penultimate Day℠.

“There’s much to be said for a 23/6 approach to living,” laughs Mr. Maggitti, “allowing for some breathing room in our lives. Leonard Cohen wrote that we have to learn to stop bravely at the surface, I say we have to learn to stop bravely before the final chapter.”

According to Mr. Maggitti, history is “aghast” with penultimate days that have gotten short shrift in our chronicles. “September 10, 2001; December 6, 1942; October 11, 1492,” he reels them off convincingly.

“Furthermore, we talk about the nth degree representing the utmost as though there’s something inherently wrong with the mth degree representing the almost. And what’s the problem with living each day as if it’s the next-to-last day of your life? Or with Making America OK Again?”

HMFIC Maggitti, who stopped short of earning not one but two masters degrees, blames “our national obsession with superlatives” for also giving rise to the “hideous” misuse of penultimate to mean “the greatest thing ever, the GOAT among GOATS.” In response to “those twin monstrosities,” Mr. Maggitti launched the National Penultimate Day℠ campaign

this year.

Penultimate, as civilized people learn in school, means “last but one in a series of things; the next to last.” Penultimate does not mean nor should it be allowed to mean “the most ultimate” or “the most awesomest” ever.

The misuse of penultimate leads to atrocities like the following headline from Science Direct, “Female genital mutilation: the penultimate gender abuse.” Or this cheese ball from the Parksville-Qualicum News in British Columbia: “The penultimate insult to my dad’s world view was the portrayal of fathers on television.” Or this pitch from a public relations professional: “The NRA provides the penultimate value-added services for discerning gun owners.”

The incorrect use of penultimate to mean “the absolute, balls-to-the-wall greatest of all times, ever” is a malapropism, a slip of the tongue wherein speakers puff out their chests and substitute a grand-sounding word for a plainer-sounding one because of a similarity in pronunciation (or because the grand word sounds cool and rolls off the tongue organically like water off a duck’s ass feathers).

Instead, here’s how penultimate was meant to be used: “During the training, they dived on the wreck five times, successfully identifying the truck on the penultimate dive.” So what was the dive on which they identified the truck? Yep, the fourth one, the one before the last.

Here’s one more: “The Giants didn’t clinch a wild card berth until the penultimate day of the season.”