Since GrammarPuss has been at it lately, and I have just got off the train after a pleasantly alcoholic dinner and an unpleasant wade through the shoddy prose of Harold Pinter’s Nobel speech* I’d like to share with you my language gripes of the moment.
You should only use “the latter” when you are referring to one of two preceding items. When there are three or more you use “the last”. It’s usually better not to use “the latter” at all, because it’s often ambiguous and it’s often used by people who think it makes them sound clever, rather than people who are clever enough not to have to try to impress anyone.
I realise criticising Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott for abusing English is like criticising Boy George for being camp, but today he referred to the emergency services currently dealing with the consequences of the explosion in Hemel Hempstead as “fully deserving of fulsome praise”. Apart from the parent phrase being a cliché, I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean “fulsome”:
fulsome adj sickeningly obsequious; nauseatingly affectionate
That’s all, people. Goodnight.
*[I’m going to give the old fraud such a fisking soon.]