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Charles C. Fuller wrote:
> > > Nice term, decimate. This is what virulent organisms often do, take
> >> nine-out-of-ten individuals out of a populat[ion].
> > I believe that decimate means to reduce by one in ten, not nine out of ten.
> This is right, but this is a word that is consistently used incorrectly.
Just to throw my two cents in (hey, I might as well use that English
degree once in a great while)...
Technically, and in its original form, decimate does indeed mean reduce
by one in ten...but the word has entered into a period of use in (at
least) American usage that makes it a correct term to use when talking
about any kind of reduction of a great amount. This is one of the
reasons why a language is considered to be 'alive', because meanings and
usages are constantly changing. It is akin to using the world
'catastrophe', which originally referred to wrath (or any nasty simile)
from the stars, but is now used in regards to any great damage incurred
from natural or other sources.
**this public English usage announcement was brought to you by a
graduate student with waaay too much time on his hands in this week
before classes begin**
John M. Dollan
Montana State University-Northern
"To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the
universe...." Carl Sagan