DECIMATION. There is one word usage on Jen Doll’s list that I have some regrets about: “decimate”. Doll says: “Because the wordâ€™s Latin root means â€œtenth,â€ peevers insist that when you say â€œthe Sox decimated the Tigersâ€ you mean â€œthe Sox reduced the Tigers by 10 percent.â€ I regret the expansion of the meaning of “decimate” because the original meaning of the word carries with it so much of the ruthlessness which made Rome’s armies and Rome impossible to beat.
“Decimatio” had an exact meaning in Latin. It was, according to this wikipedia article, “a form of military discipline used … in the Roman Army to punish units … guilty of capital offences such as mutiny or desertion. The word decimation is derived from Latin meaning “removal of a tenth”…. A cohort selected for punishment by decimation was divided into groups of ten; each group drew lots (Sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot fell was executed by his nine comrades, often by stoning or clubbing.” Crassus imposed decimation in one of the wars against Spartacus.
There are overtones of horror in the word “decimation” which have been lost.