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Since recently I have been often corrected when using the word "останній" (останній раз, останній візит, останнє рішення). Some friends try to persuade me that "крайній" should be used instead, due to "останній" bearing extra negative connotation, namely "occurring before death".

The Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language provides us with the following entries:

КРА́ЙНІЙ, я, є.

ОСТА́ННІЙ, я, є.

We can see that "near-death" meaning is just a minor one among the number of other meanings of the word "останній", and surely does not prevail.

I wonder whether it's just a prejudice of the people or there have been some recent updates to the interpretation of the meaning of the two words in modern dictionaries I am not aware of?

  • Have you considered 'минулий'? Like in 'минулого разу' context. As for 'останній' - in my experience that's important for sailors because of traditional superstitions. Guess for serviceman as well. – Anna Avina Feb 23 '17 at 9:29
  • @AnnaAvina many thanks for your comment. As a matter of fact, there is no problem with "минулий", I use the same as well. It's strange for me there is a tendency for total substitution of "останній" by "крайній" even in the spheres not related to "sensitive". And there is an evident risk to lose absolutely normal word "останній". – Oksana Gubrenko Feb 23 '17 at 14:48
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    Linking a related question at Lisguistics.SE – bytebuster Mar 21 '17 at 14:38
17

That is definitely a prejudice, a superstition.

It is rooted in the professional slang of people whose profession includes constant risk of death, such as pilots, all kinds of military men, firemen, etc. For them anything they do can really be the last time they do it in their life, the word останній for them means “ultimate, followed by nothing”, so in order not to “tempt the Fortune” they use the word крайній which in this case means “the last one in the queue, line, such one that more can come and stand behind it”. Here “more can come and stand behind it” is the key, it implies the action is not ultimate.

My informer on the topic is a friend of mine who is an air traffic controller, he says, “If someone asks me if that is the last plane during my shift, I won't be able to answer, because who knows how many more unexpected planes can come, so I'd say it's not the last (останній), but last in the queue (крайній), some other planes can come unexpectedly.”

That trait is very catchy, and many people who served in the army even for a year or two start using it for years after they had abandoned military service.

  • Please advise if there is any English counterpart for "крайній" instead of "the last" under similar context? Do "people whose profession includes constant risk of death, such as pilots, all kinds of military men, firemen, etc." use any substitute for "the last" elsewhere beyond Russia or Russian-speaking countries or is it indeed a distinctive phenomenon? – Oksana Gubrenko Feb 22 '17 at 9:09
  • Please, compare with English ambiguity between last and past and put more drama in the meaning and you'll get some kind of dual pair of останній/крайній – chizh Feb 22 '17 at 17:13
  • @Chizh - Why should I? The English equivalent of крайній is rear. – Yellow Sky Feb 22 '17 at 20:22
  • @YellowSky Please advise whether "rear" is usually used within the context under discussion? – Oksana Gubrenko Feb 22 '17 at 20:43
  • You should'nt :) I'm taking about adjective missusage in context of series of events – chizh Feb 22 '17 at 22:33
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I assume that this connotation came from the Russian language where a majority of people prefer to say крайній instead of останній.

A lot of Russian sources confirm my assumption:

Розповсюдженим явищем черед сучасних носіїв російської мови є схильність до есхрофемізмів або забобонний страх перед есхрофемізмами. Есхрофемізм - це примусове знаходження підтексту в будь-якому словесному повідомленні і одночасне звернення до низького (часто - непідцензурного) стилю мовлення. Обидва прийоми природним чином розвиваються в середовищі, де панують цензура і доноси. Сигнал, що змушує за безневинним словом чути грубе та лайливе слово, матюк. Чому більше не говорять я кінчив школу (в оригіналі - кончил)? Натомість говорять закінчив школу (рос. окончил школу, закончил школу), через те, шо це дієслово може сприйматись в непристойному підтексті. Ось це і є прояв есхрофемізма. Есхрофемізм - це евфемізм (слово-замінник, уживане замість ненормативної лексики або грубих або різких слів і висловів, які неприйнятні в загальному вжитку в "культурному співтоваристві") навпаки.

Upd.

In English it's called dysphemism (discussion on English Language, Wikipedia). It comes from the Greek dys δύς "mis-" and pheme φήμη "speech, voice, reputation". Related terms include malphemism (from the Latin malus "bad"), and cacophemism (from the Greek kakos κακός "bad").

In "Big Russian slang dictionary" by V. M. Mokienko and T. G. Nikitina word крайній in the meaning останній is marked as aviation, space. It is obvious that pilots, parachutists, explorers are afraid to talk about the latest flight, jump, expedition. But it's not obvious why such a lot of people started using professional connotation in daily life.

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    That's extremely interesting! Will you please tell us how that term, есхрофемізм is written in Latin or Greek letters so that we could check the existence thereof? Or else your story is just a fairy-tale. We cannot find any mention of it except on dubious Russian sites... – Yellow Sky Feb 22 '17 at 7:49
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    @YellowSky αἰσχρολογία transliterated aischrología is "filthy talk", from Greek αἰσχρός (aischros) "shameful". I could not find aischrophemism, but seems to be a plausible construct. – Sassa NF Feb 22 '17 at 8:09
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – bytebuster Mar 10 '17 at 21:09

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