Here we go again. In this article, the following sentence emerges to stick itself like a needle into one’s eye:
A huge fire has erupted in the rubble of Beirut’s port just 37 days after an explosion decimated the city.
The original meaning of the word “decimate” was to reduce by 10% — for example, the punishment for a Roman legion which fled the battle field was to line them all up, pull every tenth legionary out of the ranks and execute them — hence decimation, from the Latin word for “ten”.
I know that in modern parlance the word “decimate” has been clumsily used to indicate catastrophe, and it’s become so widespread that I now only register mild irritation — say, 20 rounds’ worth — when I hear it thus used.
But good grief, can we at least stipulate that decimation can only be applied to a numerical value? The Chinkvirus, say, might decimate a group of people in a retirement home; but you can’t “decimate” a city, or a field of wheat, or a river — it just makes fuck-all sense, not that modern journalists ever apply that yardstick to their silly scribblings.
Is it too early for a mid-morning martini? I think not.