Evidence for DECIMATE   ('one in t en')

Mon Jan 7 20:21:52 UTC 2008

        Arnold, what is your opinion of the view espoused by Fowler?  He wrote that the application of "decimate" "is naturally extended to the destruction in any way of a large proportion of anything reckoned by number, e.g., a population may be said to be decimated by a plague.  But . . . anything that is expressly inconsistent with the proper sense _(A single frosty night decimated the currants by as much as 80%)_ must be avoided."  He particularly criticized an example in which "literally decimated" was used to mean "killed."  (He also criticized the application of the word to the virtual extermination of rabbits by myxomatosis, but he may have been under the misapprehension that myxomatosis is 100% effective.)

John Baker

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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