Secret Pop

Dec 30, 2003


Merriam-Webster's word of the day is penultimate. Of course, you and I know that it means the next to the last and not the extra-ultimate as some people seem to think. It is a great surprise to me how often this word is misused. I also thought it fitting -- as I'm sure the folks at the dictionary did -- to make mention of it on this, the penultimate day of 2003.

Speaking of which, I have been giving some thought to who the 2003 Meet Mary Forrest Person of the Year is, and I think, after great deliberation, I must declare that the first annual recipient of this meaningless award is...*drum roll*...VANITY. I'm accustomed to seeing it on the pages of the L.A. Weekly, but now even San Diego's Reader, the local free newspaper, has had its innards impregnated with ads for cosmetic surgeons and laser hair removal specialists and boob jobbers. And never before has the makeover been a more popular or powerful agent of change -- albeit strictly cosmetically. Whether it's Queer Eye or Extreme Makeover or Trading Spaces or your sister who only ever buys you make-up as gifts, it's plain as the arguably-in-need-of-alteration nose on my face that this has been the year of changing from without and never mind what's within. And maybe a little external refurbishment can have its internal effects, but I don't really believe any of those people whose homes got redone on television this year actually found themselves suddenly the havers of exquisite taste. You can give a hobo an Armani jacket, but he'll just be a hobo in an Armani jacket and therefore more prone to being arrested on suspicion of having murdered a sales executive and stolen his clothing; you're not doing that hobo any favors. Ironically, the Reader has gotten a makeover of its own. A nice glossy cover and newsprint inside pages that aren't nearly so filthy as in days of old. I'm assuming it can afford the new duds on account of all the fat being sucked out of the saddlebags of San Diego's beachbound beauties.

Anyhow, if you have ever misused the word penultimate, don't fret. Just get it right the next time and no one will be the wiser. Unless my little sister heard you do it, in which case you will never ever ever hear the end of it. Think of this as a public service.

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