OT Evidence for DECIMATE   ( 'one in ten')

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Jan 9 01:50:32 UTC 2008

A1884: <<when last they were quartered here they were twice-decimated
>>by cholera, and left a fifth of their regiment in the cemetery here.>>
>Just a slight quarrel here -- the writer of this needs a re-education
>in arithmetic.  Successive decimations leave 19 % in the cemetery.

I tentatively read "twice-decimated" as distinct from "twice
decimated". I take "twice-decimated" here as probably meaning exactly
"reduced by 20%" (with of course some leeway either way in casual
use) rather than as "reduced by 10% on each of two occasions". Maybe
I'm wrong, though.

There are several examples of "doubly decimate" which I think
probably meant "reduced by 20%" also, although some others seem to
use the imprecise/arbitrary "decimate" (with "doubly" maybe as an
imprecise intensifier in some cases?) and some others still appear to
mean "decimate twice in succession".

-- Doug Wilson

No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.5.516 / Virus Database: 269.17.13/1213 - Release Date: 1/7/2008 9:14 AM

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list