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Decimated

Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:38 am
by Phil White
On the BBC a few days ago, an American politician referred to Raqqa in these terms: "half the city has been decimated".

Now call me a stickler, but surely that means that one twentieth of the city has been destroyed.

Seriously, though, as far as I am concerned, you can "decimate" an army or a crop, or a population or, indeed, pretty well anything countable, and I accept that it no longer means eliminate every tenth individual, but surely you can't decimate an uncountable entity such as a city. Just sounds plain wrong to me.

Re: Decimated

Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:21 am
by tony h
I agree with the view that vegentimated may be a better word. But I don't have a problem with the concept. I read it as 1/20 of all the buildings, power plants, houses, cars, families etc.

Though the "half of the city has been decimated" might suggest that the other half of the city is untouched.

Re: Decimated

Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:34 am
by Phil White
In a documentary last night, I heard the following:

"The Black Death decimated the population of Europe. At least a third, possibly anything up to 60 percent of the population died."

In reality, I don't have a great problem with that. It is what "decimate" means nowadays. The real problem I had with the example in my first post was the uncountable "city".

Re: Decimated

Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:08 pm
by tony h
Phil White wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:34 am
The real problem I had with the example in my first post was the uncountable "city".
You can :
- drink half a glass.
- half a can left.
- buses travel half empty.
- half of Barcelona marched today.

Surely "city" is simply a collection of countable objects. A short form of "half the population of the city".