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