Sunday, June 29, 2008

Linguistic Patrol

Every tenth person who misuses "decimate" should be taken out and shot.

That is all.


Jeffro said...

Aaaahh, but that would decimate the population.

Joe Allen said...

I was just catching up with the 3rd Season Dr. Who and to my dismay the Master... oops spoiler alert there.

The antagonist proclaims something to the effect of "Shall we decimate them? What a wonderful word: 'decimate'"

Imagine my surprise when he proceeds to order his minions to "Kill every tenth human."

I swear, I actually danced around the room I was so overjoyed at the proper use of the word.

I was also imagining how much bigger my carbon footprint could be with 600,000,000 fewer c0² conversion units...


Dr. StrangeGun said...

Hence starting the global practice of decimetry.

Everyone is to be issued a "smart" decimetry badge that records any malformed utterance on a strip of film...

theirritablearchitect said...

"Hence starting the global practice of decimetry.

Everyone is to be issued a "smart" decimetry badge that records any malformed utterance on a strip of film..."

You've the start of an excellent novel on that premise, methinks.

Rob K said...

You're obviously no fan of Humpty Dumpty.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

And neither am I.

Anonymous said...

I tried to convince my broadcast editor
that it has a specific meaning, and it's
not "just kill lotsa people."
But then he likes making verbs into nouns,
And he believes "impacted" is a stronger,
more effective word than "affected."
Keep up the cammpaign, and perhaps we'll
get the right ten percent.
Anon, Don

Anonymous said...

you betcha... decimate them to the last man... :)

Roberta X said...

Ahh, decimetry!

Anon: "Impacted" is better than "affected?" Sure, if it's in, "The rock thrown from the overpass affected the car's hood," I can see where your editor might be onto something. As for me, whether literal or figurative, I lean to good old Anglo-Saxon "struck" when I desire to say "affected powerfully."

Broadcast news is speech and IMHO it is better delivered in articulate, everyday language. This has gone out of style (in the States) in favor of MBA-speak and affected, trite phrasing. I think even Eric Severied would have been appalled. Or at least struck by the enormity of it.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

Roberta, it's a new paradigm, a real sea change in the linguistics of the daily dissemination of worldy infotainment.

Anonymous said...

So, what do you do when it is a news agency misusing the word?
"The discovery of the decimated fixed-wing plane came days after a local hiker stumbled upon some of Fossett's personal effects — including his pilot's license and FAA cards." - FOXNews
Would that call for decimating the entire company, or just finding the offending author, assuming they fell on the ten count?

Roberta X said...

I believe we can safely invoke the every-hand-that-touched-it rule: writer, editor and/or producer, newsreader and/or Chyron operator. Line 'em up and, rembering were we left off, count down the line, iterating per ocurrance. "...six, seven, eight, nine, oh, tough go, old thing!" Videotape and video servers would be quite a problem for the lexically-limited!

Sadly, it'll never happen.