Evidence for DECIMATE ('one in ten')

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Mon Jan 7 17:59:04 UTC 2008

Obviously, then, there is ample evidence for the continud meaning "To kill, 
destroy, or remove one in
every ten of" in the work of such people as Richard Grant White and those who 
agree with him. Of course, as Arnold notes, this is not at all a useful 
meaning, since it apparently only exists in dictionaries, the diatribes of pundits, 
and (perhaps) crossword puzzles.

In a message dated 1/7/08 12:46:24 PM, zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU writes:

> James Murray inserted a definition "To kill, destroy, or remove one in
> every ten of" as a bridge between the Roman military sense and the
> 'great reduction' sense --
>    but he produced no citations to indicate its actual use.
> Apparently _decimate_ has never been so used in English.  (MWDEU)
> from Richard Grant White in 1868 on, however, people have been
> claiming that this (or the somewhat extended sense 'reduce in number
> or amount by one-tenth') is the original and only true sense of the
> word.  (if so, it's not a particularly useful word.)

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