DECIMATE (one more time)

David Bowie db.list at PMPKN.NET
Tue Jan 8 15:28:24 UTC 2008

From:    "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
> On Jan 7, 2008, at 8:53 AM, James Smith wrote:

>> I'm getting confused by this discussion.  Is it the
>> contention of this discussion that "decimate" does not
>> and never has meant killing one in ten; that such a
>> concept is totally foreign to the origin of this word
>> and has been invented in recent times to match the
>> word with a spurious etymology?

> i don't know how you got this idea...

FWIW, i *completely* understand how James Smith got that idea. I mean, i
came into this knowing the historical background behind the word
"decimate", and having read previous discussions about it, and i was
starting to get confused, myself.

Of course, i also don't care and will happily continue going about using
it to mean "largely or completely destroyed" no matter what discussion
about it there might be, so it's not like it really matters.


David Bowie                               University of Central Florida
     Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the
     house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is
     chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

The American Dialect Society -

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