“Latter,” not “Ladder”
Andrew Chatwin asks:
Latter and Ladder, how are they different?
One difference is that of pronunciation:
In ordinary speech, however, the difference between the t and d sounds is often difficult to discern.
Apparently other speakers are puzzled by the word latter. Here’s a question asked and answered at Yahoo Answers:
Why do people use the phrase “I choose the ladder” after comparing two decisions or choices?
And here’s the “best answer as chosen by voters”:
Oh most people who say that are social climbers and they want to get to the top.
In the expression that refers to making a choice between two options, the word is latter, not ladder. The first option is called the former:
Father gave us our choice of the blue Mustang or the red Corvette. I chose the former and Charlie chose the latter.
The word latter comes from the comparative form of Old English laet: laetra, and meant “slower.” It took on the meaning of “second of two” in the 1550s. Modern later came, well, later. (It also comes from OE laet.)
The most usual use of latter is to refer to the second of two mentioned things:
He was offered the part of either Othello or Iago: he chose the latter.
Mormons call their church “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” because they see themselves as later followers of Jesus Christ; the “former day saints” were the first century Christians.
“The latter days” is an eschatological phrase used by some Christian sects to refer to the days preceding the second coming of Christ.
One can also refer to a person’s “latter years,” i.e., old age. Here are some examples of latter used to mean “the later part of life”:
Men living longer but spend latter years sick
Staying in Shape in Your Latter Years
Ladder, as a noun, usually means a portable device with rungs or steps that enables one to climb up or down. The word ladder can also refer to a tear or a breach in fabric that resembles a ladder, having straight sides and crosspieces:
Once the critical bond at the crack tip has broken, the peak stress concentration is transferred to the next bond, and so on, like a ladder in a silk stocking.
Figuratively, ladder is used to refer to the steps of getting ahead socially or professionally:
A steady rise up the legal ladder took him into the commercial law field …
He sits, unhappy and proud, on the ladder of social promotion having lost the hold on one type of life, but failing to reach the one to which he aspires.