“The past 12 months have seen the passing of the last WWI combat veteran, one of golf’s greatest players and the man who introduced the iPhone to the world,” wrote the BBC in 2011.
Hmm … Is this all about the Oxford comma? (With its lone comma, that sentence sounds as though Steve Jobs could have been a golf champion and the last surviving veteran of the first world war …) No, that’s for another time and place; this is about past and last — two adjectives that are very similar to look at and are sometimes synonymous, but are often actually lifetimes apart.
Recency and finality are what it’s all about here, and the fact that last can describe either state is what sometimes causes confusion and ambiguity. Continue reading