Decimation - total destruction

  1. Phyrebrat

    Phyrebrat ba-Ba-ba-brat

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    I notice a lot of times that this word is used to mean 'total destruction' when my good friend Stephen Fry tells me that to decimate is to reduce by ten percent.

    Are we confusing it with 'annihilate' or now, in the spirit of evolving language, does decimate mean either?

    pH
     
    Feb 12, 2018
    #1
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  2. Mouse

    Mouse ejtett.weebly.com

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    Did you Google it, dude? Because Google says the ten percent thing is the 'historical' meaning. And Google never lies.
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  3. Vince W

    Vince W Well-Known Member

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    OED - Usage

    Historically, the meaning of the word decimate is ‘kill one in every ten of (a group of people)’. This sense has been more or less totally superseded by the later, more general sense ‘kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of’, as in the virus has decimated the population. Some traditionalists argue that this is incorrect, but it is clear that it is now part of standard English
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  4. HareBrain

    HareBrain Bunny of Wonder Staff Member

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    I'm a bit torn on this one. I can't help seeing the "dec" as meaning ten, so I want to keep the historical meaning. And as you say, we have other words for total destruction, such an annihilate (ooh, spelled it right first go) so why do we need another one, unless we're writing Warhammer 40K?

    On the other hand, reducing something by 10% is awfully specific. When would you use it? Would it be acceptable to use it when something is reduced by 9%? The potential for writing angst is off the scale.
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  5. Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    We have to give viruses a bit of latitude: they have never demonstrated an ability to count, let alone do fractions. (To be honest, they're not too good with numbers in general....)
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  6. TheDustyZebra

    TheDustyZebra Inspired. Or possibly insane. Could go either way. Staff Member

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    I'm with history on this one -- it always makes me crazy when it's used in the modern sense.

    Although, at the same time, I can't help hearing the modern sense in it and thinking it means more than the word implies.
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  7. Phyrebrat

    Phyrebrat ba-Ba-ba-brat

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    Ah, so it's not just me, then.

    Of course I Googled it; I always do that when I need to know what to think. :D

    I'm tempted to use annihil as a noun. Also nonalate for your 9%. It's when we get into decimal points we get into problems. Thankfully the only non-integer destruction I've had to use in my wip was a reduction of the population by 3.14% so it was simply a case of Pihilation (I hope @Ursa major is proud of my punnery).

    This is how I feel. I wondered if I was being a pedant though.

    pH
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  8. Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    I'd be even more impressed if those who were killed had been rounded up first (perhaps by, or using, a mysterious force :rolleyes:).


    (By the way, am I allowed to suggest that this is all floccinaucinihilipilification?)
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  9. The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Yep, my first instinct on seeing it used to mean "killed a lot of people" is to jump up and down yelling that it's wrong, but it's been used wrongly since the C17th, so I can't see it being limited to its correct meaning any time soon.

    HB, the 10% arises since it was a punishment when 1 in 10 would be executed, so perhaps that's when it should be used, only when it's a specific punishment.
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  10. Paul_C

    Paul_C Well-Known Member

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    Language, whether you like it or not, is always changing, nothing can be done so sit back and enjoy the ride ;)
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  11. Overread

    Overread Direwolf of the chrons

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    Ahh but don't forget Mr Fry also said this


    Even Latin, a "dead" language still evolves today through its use in science. Granted some evolutions of language are more desirable than others (leet or text talk is not what I want to see fillling books ;))
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  12. WaylanderToo

    WaylanderToo Well-Known Member

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    regrettably this ^^^ IIRC decimation was a Roman punishment for a dishonoured legion?
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  13. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    Yes, so it means killing a tenth of your own men, not all of someone else.
     
    Feb 12, 2018
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  14. pyan

    pyan Great Old One Staff Member

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    Not just in Roman times, either:

    'For failing to stand and fight in the war’s opening weeks, the French high command ordered every tenth man in a company of the Mixed Algerian Infantry Regiment (Régiment Mixte de Tirailleurs Algériens) to be shot by firing squad. The sentences were all carried out on Dec. 15, 1914.'

    “Removal of a Tenth” – A Brief and Bloody History of Decimation
     
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  15. WarriorMouse

    WarriorMouse If your really quiet you can hear my battle roar.

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    I've always understood the two words in this context.
    Decimate... to remove enough individuals to cause the collapse of a unit. ie removing all the officers in an army would cause it to loose effectiveness.
    Annihilate... to remove all the individuals of a unit. ie killing every person in an army is to annihilate that army
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018 at 2:21 AM
    Feb 13, 2018 at 2:13 AM
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  16. Phyrebrat

    Phyrebrat ba-Ba-ba-brat

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    Excellent responses, all!

    pH
     
    Feb 13, 2018 at 2:44 AM
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  17. CTRandall

    CTRandall I have my very own plant pot!

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    Now that that's settled, can anyone tell me what a califragilisticexpialidocious is and what might go on top of it? (I apologize in advance for spelling. I didn't google it first.)
     
    Feb 13, 2018 at 11:52 PM
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  18. Abernovo

    Abernovo Well-Known Member

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    Well, for a start, it's quite atrocious!
    And, to think anything could go atop it is rather precocious.


    Aww, come on. Someone was gonna have to say it.
    *leaves, with coat and hat, followed by a bear*
     
    Feb 14, 2018 at 12:15 AM
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  19. WarriorMouse

    WarriorMouse If your really quiet you can hear my battle roar.

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    Mine is Super sized!
     
    Feb 14, 2018 at 12:32 AM
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  20. J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    Well, my wordweb prog says: Kill one in ten, or: Kill in large numbers, but lists synonyms like: wipe out, eradicate, extinguish, eliminate..so it does seem to be leaning that way.
     
    Feb 14, 2018 at 1:35 AM
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