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Proper use of the word Decimate

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Proper use of the word Decimate

Postby dolphinius_rex on Thu Oct 26, 2006 3:37 pm

Ok, I might be pushing it a bit far here, but it REALLY bugs me when people miss-use the word "Decimate".

Like in this article:
TOKYO - A global battery recall and red ink in its video-game business decimated Sony's profits in the most recent quarter, the Japanese electronics and entertainment company said Thursday.

Sony Corp's group net profit for the July-September quarter fell 94 percent to 1.7 billion yen ($14 million), from 28.5 billion yen the same period the previous year, the Tokyo-based manufacturer said

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061026/ap_ ... japan_sony

The article says that the profits we "decimated" and then later says they fell by 94%. The actual original meaning of the term decimated is to reduce something by 1/10th. So this would be a correct use of the word if profits had been reduced by ~10%, as opposed to 94%.

Now in modern day, it has become acceptable practice to use the term decimate for any situation where there is a great loss, usually in the area of 90%. Talk about really screwing up the meaning of a word!!!
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Re: Proper use of the word Decimate

Postby DrageMester on Thu Oct 26, 2006 4:46 pm

dolphinius_rex wrote:The actual original meaning of the term decimated is to reduce something by 1/10th.

Sorry to interfere with your rant, but the original meaning isn't to reduce something by 1/10th - but rather to kill or execute one in every ten people in a group of soldiers in the Roman armies as punishment for mutiny.

Killing is rather more dramatic than "reducing", so probably that's why decimate is now being used to describe something dramatic.
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Postby dolphinius_rex on Thu Oct 26, 2006 6:34 pm

That doesn't change my rant though :wink:

And yes, I realize that it was originally used in that sense, but the concept remains the same. to say "the invading turks' army was decimated" is no more correct then saying "I played a bad hand of poker and now my chips are decimated".
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