Evidence for DECIMATE   ( 'one in ten')

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jan 8 01:20:24 UTC 2008

At 1/7/2008 02:57 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>so some people have an opinion about the meaning of "decimate", but
>there's no evidence to indicate that the word actually has that
>meaning; no one seems to *use* the word that way.  meanwhile, there's
>tons of evidence, from a great many speakers and writers, in a wide
>variety of contexts,  that the word has a 'greatly reduce' sense.

>once again: this meaning doesn't occur even there.  it's *mentioned*
>there, but not (so far as i know) ever *used* there.

Arnold, doesn't the second group of Doug's quotations, for "kill 10%
of", change this?

>no, the evidence indicates that people *believe* it has this meaning.

Do linguists make a significant distinction between what people
believe they say, or believe is said by others, and on the other hand
what they or others actually say?  I mean this as a serious question,
even though Doug has demonstrated that it can no longer be asked
about "decimate" = kill 10%.


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