This is just a little bitch that I have had for the better part of a decade. Why in the hell do people use the term ‘decimate’ to talk about mass destruction or large scale loss of life? I learned the word back in high school, it means (meant?) to eliminate every 10th soldier as a punishment for treason. The reason it sticks in my mind so well is that I envisioned a line of soldiers, standing at attention, watching as a guy counted each one, then lopped the head off of the tenth one; a game of duck, duck, goose gone wrong. I remember thinking that I would have tried to start counting guys between the executioner and me, then make sure I didn’t fall into the 10th percentile, if you know what I mean.
The word has been bastardized to the point that Jeff Probst, the host of the CBS show Survivor, used it to describe one tribe losing seven out of eight players. While none of the contestants actually died (being the first reason that the usage was wrong), they lost 7/8ths of their team. I am no math major, but I really think that 7/8ths is greater than 1/10th.
It turns out that I am the jackass though, to a point. It seems that the term ‘decimate’ is now recognized as a term to describe massive loss of life. You can find a pretty average definintion of the word here. I linked to this particular dictionary only because they have the etymology of the word, thus showing that it was never meant to describe the loss of 87.5% of your group (as Probst said on Survivor). It does say that the word is accepted for descriptions of massive loss of life, but it also says that any other use is not supported.
So, in order to say that you have ‘decimated’ anything, you must either kill every 10th guy in a group or wipe out millions of Jews in Europe, any other usage is WRONG! Which leads nicely into the crux of why I make the argument right now (since it has been pissing me off for a decade or more). Some guy on a tragedy highlight reel said that a speedboat, which turned into pieces as small as kindling when it crashed into a wall, had been decimated. It was not decimated, it was destroyed to be sure, You could probably say that it had been eviscerated, since it did throw all of its inner parts out during the crash, you could say that it had been demolished, which I think is the best description. That boat was certainly not decimated.
If there had been exactly ten boats in the race, and if another, much larger, boat had singled out that particular boat and killed it, then I would say that the boat was decimated. If there had been two million boats in the race, and if another, much larger, boat killed 40-60% of them, then I would say that they had been decimated (reluctantly though. The word has a specific meaning.).
That is all for now. Any new posts today will show up above this one. As always, Email me with any thoughts. I do love the feedback.
New Site Format Starts Now
Well, as mentioned in a previous post, today is the day that I am going to start my new updating system. This will mean very little to you, as when you enter the page you only ever see the index page, regardless of how I handle the updating portion of it. What it will mean, however, is that there will be every post that I care to write during the week on the main page (newer entries being on top of course), for your enjoyment?
What this means to me is a hell of a lot less work. The real reason that my posts have dwindled over the past few months is actually due to the amount of time it takes me to add the old pages to the archives, make sure the links work and the such. Of course if I were using the movable type that would all be taken care of for me, that is a different story entirely. At some point I will probably catch up on the last few months in the archives, giving a brief description of each, after which there will simply be a link to the weekly posts. I may put a description on the ones that I think are important, but I am still not sure on that one. I will use horizontal lines to end subjects and bold print to start new ideas.