Ev idence for DECIMATE   ( 'one in ten')

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jan 8 03:38:11 UTC 2008

At 1/7/2008 09:35 PM, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
>The frequency of this sense is
>statistically zero. I suppose it's mildly interesting that
>yes, there have finally been found real examples of this, but
>still, in the grand scheme of things, it's irrelevant. If I
>were revising OED's entry now I would omit this sense or
>discuss it only in a note, probably following MWDEU in
>criticizing Murray for making it up.

I don't argue that "to subject to severe loss, slaughter, or
mortality" is not the predominant sense today.

I suppose what I see now as an inconsistency -- namely, sense 4.a
with no examples in OED2 but some examples now found from the 1800s
-- could be cured by removing the sense.  But criticizing Murray for
making it up seems, er, cruel -- maybe he had seen it three times,
but couldn't find it again?

On the other hand, there are words in OED2 with only a single
citation, and I suspect for some of those the meaning is unknown or


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