Evidence for DECIMATE ('one in ten')

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Thu Jan 10 03:20:44 UTC 2008

>What seems strangely difficult to get across is that "winning the
>day" is not an issue for lexicographers, whose job is to identify
>and, when possible, to explain meanings.

"Winning the day," as I used it, meant "prevailing to the extent that
the usage becomes common enough to warrant inclusion in a
dictionary." Of course it's an issue for lexicographers. I'm not
talking about winning an argument. I'm talking about affecting usage
on the large scale. That's what lexicographers look at, no? If
petulant insistence on a meaning by pedants has enough effect for
that meaning to come into common use, that certainly seems to me like
an issue for lexicographers. It's strange to me that I've had
difficulty getting across that this is what I meant by "winning the

Just to be clear: I am not saying that the pedants have won the day
on "decimate." I'm just sitting by the side watching the primary
results come in for that one. But I was responding to the more
general thread on pedants, particularly David Daniel's comments.

James Harbeck.

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

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