Everyone Is Jumping Off the Brooklyn Bridge

Friday, July 21, 2006

Words to Your Mother: Decimation

I thought about sticking a word of the day feature on this, but I'll be shocked if I keep up any regularity of posting (despite this initial flurry). Instead, I give you "Words to Your Mother". Words you may not have known or properly understood, but are safe to use around the girl who married dear old dad. Or someone just like her. Or around the shameless tart who had a one-night stand with your father and never saw him again, leaving him to deal with the consequences... waitaminute... that doesn't sound right...

Anyway, today you can safely teach mom about decimation. Keep reading even if you think you know this one.

Decimation *originally* referred to the killing of every tenth person, a practice the Romans used to keep mutinous legions in check. So decimation, rather than being the slaughtering of a large group of people, is the killing of one out of every ten, which, while less than ideal, isn't nearly as bad.

Or does it mean that? Some dictionaries say otherwise. And some would say that Decimation is something else entirely.

The fact is, that English is an evolving language, something that smarter linguists (like Paul Brians) aren't afraid to admit. Check out his site on Common Errors in English Usage, which is well worth purchasing if you, like me, sometimes appreciate a hard copy, even if the online version is free.

BTW, should I keep posting to this blog, don't expect as many of the words to be so well known.  And no, I'm not going to start ripping off various word of the day lists.

Oh, yeah.  Don't expect them all to be in English either.

Stay tuned.

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