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960502.  Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:28 pm Reply with quote

While referring to the English Civil War, Stephen stated that half the population of Ireland had been killed, referring to this as a "decimation". A decimation is when 10% have been killed - deci, of course, meaning 10. Sorry to clog up a bit of server space with this but it really bugged me.

960515.  Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:29 pm Reply with quote

There's a small problem with that quibble IMO.

Decimate and Decimation, when first used in English, appear to mean either tithes or punishments. While we know that the Romans used Decimation to discipline their ranks for certain infractions by getting groups of 10 soldiers to draw lots for one to be executed by the other 9, the word itself was known to simply mean "removal of a tenth". The original use of the word came from the meaning of the word, not from the act of the Romans.

I think the modern use of the word Decimate was because the killing of a 10th of a population is already an example of a devastating event, but would we need a separate word if that percentage was 20%, 50% or 80%? I guess people used Decimate for any substantial devastation rather than look for other words.

960618.  Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:53 am Reply with quote

Welcome Rosstaylor - we love a good quibble around here :-)

960628.  Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:19 am Reply with quote

Indeed - he's been much missed since he left the NYPD after the demise of Top Cat.



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