Once again someone rails against dictionaries for “giving definitions based on what the public is actually saying rather than what it should be saying.” – this post explains beautifully what’s wrong with this complaint.
Steve Finan of the Sunday Post has had a rant about “decimate”. He insists on the “reduce by 10%” meaning.
And here are a few historical facts; you can decide for yourself which, if any, we should care about when deciding how to use the word today:
- 1600: First recorded use in English of “decimate”, meaning to punish a unit of Roman soldiers by killing 10% of them
- 1663: First recorded use of “decimate” to mean damage, destroy or remove a large part of – not necessarily 10%
- 1868: First recorded complaint about the non-10% use of “decimate”
What interests me more than this word is Finan’s beautiful display of the I-know-best attitude to language:
Before anyone points out: “But the dictionary…
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