Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gory Etymology

This I did not know. Not that I've ever heard "decimate" used in a particularly cheerful sense anyway, but now they tell me it comes from the old Roman practice of punishing mutinous, or otherwise misbehaving legionaries by choosing a tenth of their number by lot, to be executed by their comrades. Here's a short article on the word, its use, and its misuse. One comfort--if you misuse it, whatever else the grammar police can do to you, they can't decimate you. Silver lining, and all that.

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