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No, It Can't Be True!

PotomacBob

I read the other day a quote that went something like this: More scientists are alive today than all the scientists who have lived and died since the beginning of time. Is that possible?

Replies:   awnlee jawking  REP
Ernest Bywater

Depends on how you define the term scientist!

If you mean someone who has done the relevant training or someone who's employed in a job where some scientific knowledge is needed, it may be true. If you mean someone who does actual real research into things it's not true.

Replies:   PotomacBob
PotomacBob

@Ernest Bywater

How do you know one way or another?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@PotomacBob

How do you know one way or another?


By what they do. The guy in charge of a department at CSIRO who does the admin paperwork has the training to be a scientist and is called one, but he doesn't do the work of one. Similarly the chemists working at Lever & Kitchen to design better lemon smells on the soap powders is called a scientist but they don't do any scientific research. But the people up on the Arctic ice cap examining the ice cores his work crew drilled is an environmental scientist, because he's doing real research.

PotomacBob

@Ernest Bywater

I should've made my question clearer. How do you know there are or are not enough of either kind alive today so that they would/could outnumber all those scientists who lived and died since the beginning of time. My question is not about who or who is not a scientist? Using either definition you like, how do you know the numbers?

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

But the people up on the Arctic ice cap examining the ice cores his


There are multiple stages to this these days, and they aren't all done in situ on the ice cap and they may not even be done by the same people.

1. A physical examination of the core sample, counting ice layers and measuring their thickness, noting visual differences in the appearance of the ice. This is generally done on site where the core is drilled.

2. A detailed compositional analysis to identify solid debris, particularly organic material, and gases trapped in the ice. These tests are done in a lab and are probably destructive.

3. The data from both sets of analysis above are analyzed and probably compared or combined with data from other cores. This is not done on the ice cap.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

But the people up on the Arctic ice cap examining the ice cores his


There are multiple stages to this these days, and they aren't all done in situ on the ice cap and they may not even be done by the same people.

1. A physical examination of the core sample, counting ice layers and measuring their thickness, noting visual differences in the appearance of the ice. This is generally done on site where the core is drilled.

2. A detailed compositional analysis to identify solid debris, particularly organic material, and gases trapped in the ice. These tests are done in a lab and are probably destructive.

3. The data from both sets of analysis above are analyzed and probably compared or combined with data from other cores. This is not done on the ice cap.

awnlee jawking

@PotomacBob

If it's true, it would be the ultimate cosmic joke because we're living in something of a scientific dark age. IMO the last real game-changer was the splitting of the atom. Everything since has been little tiny steps, more technological than scientific.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@PotomacBob

How do you know


Educated guess. Knowing populations throughout the years and what they did.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/recount-your-dead/

It would seem the claim relies on a much higher proportion of scientists today than in previous times, and given the propensity of stable cultures like the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans to indulge in scientific pursuits, I'm not convinced that's justified.

AJ

PotomacBob

@Switch Blayde

Educated guess.


My guess would agree with yours. But by no stretch of the imagination could you call my guess "educated." It just doesn't seem like it could be true. I have no idea, for example, who was the first scientist and when. I doubt it was Adam.

Replies:   Centaur
Centaur

@PotomacBob

that would be Eve. She suckered(er) asked Adam to eat the apple to find out what would happen. now we have cause and effect.

Crumbly Writer

@PotomacBob

I should've made my question clearer. How do you know there are or are not enough of either kind alive today so that they would/could outnumber all those scientists who lived and died since the beginning of time. My question is not about who or who is not a scientist? Using either definition you like, how do you know the numbers?

This point is being banded about more and more lately, and it's based on the still rapidly expanding population, compounded by the longer life expectancy, and the fact that more people are attending college and graduate school than ever before. Together, that means that, clearly, there ARE more scientists currently alive. Face it, back in the renaissance, most 'scientists' were amateur fan boys with the expenses needed to experiment on their own time (the 'real' scientists were all busy trying to turn lead into gold).

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

If it's true, it would be the ultimate cosmic joke because we're living in something of a scientific dark age. IMO the last real game-changer was the splitting of the atom. Everything since has been little tiny steps, more technological than scientific.

Are you kidding me? We're recording gravity waves, we're identifying which galaxies don't have dark matter, we have string theory, we've measured the expansion rate of the universe. Shit, we're continually learning new facts all the time, what's more, we now have the raw processing power to analyze that data and uncover trends never before possible.

The scientists might not the the idolized legends of old, but they're accomplishing more now than they ever have, and despite the new legion of science deniers, scientific knowledge is now more widely spread among the culture than at any other point.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ernest Bywater

I think the people making the claim are basing it solely on the number of people with tertiary degrees qualifying them to work as scientists, and comparing that to those with such degrees in the past while claiming no degree or no historical listing as a scientist means no scientist.

docholladay

As I see it the best thing about any scientific or technical knowledge increase is: How many new questions need to be answered as a result of the new knowledge.

Its almost like any real knowledge only adds to the things we don't know. If we run out of questions that are in need of answers, then we are in deep trouble.

REP

@PotomacBob

I doubt there were a large number of scientist prior to 1900, so it may be. It would depend on how you define scientist.

Would you define an inventor who stumbles on a scientific discovery a scientist? If I recall that is how many of the past discoveries were made.

Switch Blayde

@REP

I doubt there were a large number of scientist prior to 1900, so it may be. It would depend on how you define scientist.


Was Leonardo da Vinci a scientist?

Replies:   Wheezer  REP
Wheezer

@Switch Blayde


Was Leonardo da Vinci a scientist?

Da Vinci was an artist, a visionary, and a thinker. He gave us the first detailed drawings and descriptions of human anatomy, but he was studying in order to be a better artist. He did not make much effort to understand what his dissections revealed. His drawings of fantastic war machines and flying machines were incredibly imaginative, but not based on sound scientific principles and were not practical or functional. He was not a scientist.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Zom
Updated:

@REP


how you define scientist

scientist
ˈsʌɪəntɪst/
noun
noun: scientist; plural noun: scientists
a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.

science
ˈsʌɪəns/
noun
noun: science
the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Leonardo would certainly qualify. He may well have been the last person to know everything ...

Replies:   Jim S  awnlee jawking  REP
Ross at Play

@Wheezer

His drawings of fantastic war machines and flying machines were incredibly imaginative, but not based on sound scientific principles and were not practical or functional.

There's a museum in Florence that might change your opinion on that subject. It has quite a lot of functional machines built according to the designs in Leonardo's drawings.

Replies:   Wheezer
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

All those are still controversial and have negligible impact on everyday life. But we still don't have cheap, clean energy, and we still can't feed the world or free it from disease. It's reminiscent of old theologians who would spend hours debating how many angels could fit on a pin-head while remaining 100% confident that the sun revolved around the earth.

AJ

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


It's reminiscent of old theologians who would spend hours debating how many angels could fit on a pin-head while remaining 100% confident that the sun revolved around the earth.


Well, at least you didn't have them thinking the Earth was flat. Euclidean Geometry had long since established it was round, as had observations of the moon and from ( "tall") ships which always appeared over the horizon mast first despite being on a "flat body of water."

Flat Earth Society is by far one of the most annoying historical trolls out there. Only the uneducated, and/or a very small subset of the educated, held to that belief.

Wheezer

@Ross at Play

It has quite a lot of functional machines built according to the designs in Leonardo's drawings.

None of his human-powered flying machines can fly.

Wheezer

@awnlee jawking

and we still can't feed the world or free it from disease.

Unable and unwilling are not the same thing.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Jim S

@Zom

Leonardo would certainly qualify. He may well have been the last person to know everything ...


As would Archimedes.

Not_a_ID

@Wheezer

Unable and unwilling are not the same thing.

This. We grow more than enough food to comfortably feed everyone.

The problem is distribution sucks in many parts of the world, resulting in all kinds of food wastage. This also ignores civil strife on top of everything else which tends to make infrastructure issues even worse than they would be otherwise.

It isn't that we can't feed the entire world, it is that the means of gaining access to where the need exists costs more than most deem worth pursuing.

Which isn't to mention some environmental types working at cross-purposes to human-welfare. Which is more important, keeping habitats "more pristine" or improving the living conditions of humans in the region? (Knowing that improving access to that area may open it up to development as well)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Wheezer

None of his human-powered flying machines can fly.


While some of them are simply flights of fancy, some of them are basically sound ideas even if he didn't have access to materials that were both strong enough and light enough and human power can't provide enough energy for sustained flight.

Dominions Son

@Not_a_ID

This also ignores civil strife on top of everything else which tends to make infrastructure issues even worse than they would be otherwise.


The issue with civil strife and food isn't just about infrastructure destruction.

In a number of African nations where people are actually starving to death (not just under nourished), it's the result of deliberate efforts by the government to starve rebel groups.

awnlee jawking

@Zom

Neanderthals had scientists, but I guess they don't count. It's believed they discovered antibiotics because remains have been found with penicillin spores on their gums.

AJ

Replies:   Zom
Crumbly Writer

@REP

Would you define an inventor who stumbles on a scientific discovery a scientist? If I recall that is how many of the past discoveries were made.

"Scientist" is necessarily defined by 'someone who adheres to the scientific principals', rather than someone who 'notices things in passing'. The ancient cave man who discovered you could hit someone far away with a spear was not a "scientist", he just had a clever idea. But he never followed a single 'scientific process' in determining what was valid and what was not.

@Switch Blayde

Was Leonardo da Vinci a scientist?

He studiously followed the scientific principals laid out by the Ancient Greeks (and the Chinese had similar principals before that), so yes, he was. However, those predating those techniques, or those who merely 'discovered something' by accident are not.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

All those are still controversial and have negligible impact on everyday life. But we still don't have cheap, clean energy, and we still can't feed the world or free it from disease. It's reminiscent of old theologians who would spend hours debating how many angels could fit on a pin-head while remaining 100% confident that the sun revolved around the earth.

So what, you're claiming that the only valid scientific discoveries are those conducted by members of the clergy?

You can't discount science simply because it's not currently addressing the few issues which are most important to you at the moment. Scientific discovery progresses, though the application of those discoveries are not always immediately apparent to those who undertake a better understanding of the world around them.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Wheezer

None of his human-powered flying machines can fly.

That was due to lack of observational data necessary for determining what produced lift and what didn't. The Wright brothers aren't famous because they tried to launch the first heavy than air craft into the air, but because they took the time to test which wing types worked and which didn't.

Crumbly Writer

Most of my stories (being 'hard' science fiction) revolve around the scientific principals, so I've considered this for a long time.

While my characters are rarely 'experts' in their fields, they encounter something unexpected, and undertake to discover, by using the scientific method, how the previously undiscovered principals work, and use those answers to determine what's going on.

A Neanderthal chewing moldy bread was lucky to survive, not a 'scientist', by any stretch of the imagination. He may have helped quite a few people, but so were the theologians who kept insisting the sun revolved around the Earth (they fed the poor, after all, even as they shut down all attempts to document how science operated).

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

So what, you're claiming that the only valid scientific discoveries are those conducted by members of the clergy?


That was true at one time. Monasteries had a monopoly on learning, including science.

You can't discount science simply because it's not currently addressing the few issues which are most important to you at the moment. Scientific discovery progresses, though the application of those discoveries are not always immediately apparent to those who undertake a better understanding of the world around them.


Those issues are important to the whole world. What's the point of proving that gravity waves actually exist (not exactly ground-breaking) if the human race hurtles towards extinction because scientists aren't addressing the vital issues?

AJ

Replies:   PotomacBob
REP

@Switch Blayde

First define scientist.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  Zom
REP

@Zom

a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences


I have expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences. Does that mean I'm a scientist? I don't think so.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  Zom
PotomacBob

@awnlee jawking

because scientists aren't addressing the vital issues?

Is it that scientists don't want to address the issues? Or because they can't get funding? Or because governments prevent them from doing it? or some other reason?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@REP

a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences


I apply the principles of Scientific Method to improve my writing, but I'm not a scientist (dictionarily) :(

AJ

Replies:   REP
awnlee jawking

@PotomacBob

Probably all of those reasons and others too. But IMO a major factor is the lack of 'out of the box' thinking skills to make major breakthroughs. There's so much science to learn nowadays before people are in a position to make advances, and that self-selects people who are good at learning rather than thinking.

AJ

REP

@awnlee jawking

That was the definition provided by Zom.

I don't concur with it. I also don't have a good definition that I would put forth.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@REP

I also don't have a good definition that I would put forth.


Me neither :(

AJ

Switch Blayde

@REP

First define scientist.


That's why I brought up da Vinci.

William Whewell coined the term scientist in 1833. Does that mean there were no scientists before there was a word for it?

Replies:   REP
REP

@Switch Blayde

Does that mean there were no scientists before there was a word for it?


Words like scientist are labels for things that exist. You have to have the thing before you need the label. Thus we had scientists before the label was created.

It would be interesting to find out if there were other labels proposed for scientists and why Whewell's label was accepted.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

It would be interesting to find out if there were other labels proposed for scientists


Witch
Heretic

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Alchemist
Astrologer

AJ

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@awnlee jawking

Soothsayer (ok, not so much)
Wizard
Engineer (or ingenium in latin from what I see, although that seems to describe a process, not an occupation)
Architect (or arkhitektōn from ancient greek - "chief builder")

richardshagrin
Updated:

Inventor. Was Edison a scientist? There might be arguments either way. Most scientists are not like Edison, or they would have hundreds of patents. Was Alexander Graham Bell a scientist? It is possible he didn't invent the telephone, he just got the patent on it, after a lot of legal activity. Are computer programmers scientists? Lets consider Microsoft's college dropout early leader (Bill Gates, not Paul Allen). They bought an early version of DOS from another, and got IBM to use his services because his mother was on the Board of the University of Washington and knew people at IBM who thought the way to profit in personal computers was to build them, not the software.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

Was Alexander Graham Bell a scientist? It is possible he didn't invent the telephone, he just got the patent on it, after a lot of legal activity.


No, there was no legal activity involved.

This is a story I am familiar with, from research I did for a term paper on Edison's patents.

It was a race to the patent office between three people. Bell, Edison and I don't remember the name of the third inventor.

Bell was the first to get to the patent office and file a patent application.

The guy whose name I don't remember was just hours behind Bell, but he lost out because the examiner determined that his invention was substantially similar to Bell's.

Edison despite being a couple of days behind also got a patent, because his phone was substantially different from Bell's.

Interesting point, despite the fact that Bell got the credit for inventing the telephone, the phones we are all familiar with are actually based on Edison's patent, not Bell's.

Zom

@awnlee jawking

found with penicillin spores on their gums

Really? Neanderthal remains with in-tact gums that were isolated from naturally occurring mould?

Where? When?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Zom

@REP

First define scientist.

See above. http://storiesonline.net/d/s2/t3777/no-it-cant-be-true#po71620

Zom
Updated:

@REP


Does that mean I'm a scientist?


Hey, It's not my definition. If you don't agree with leading dictionaries on a word definition, then take it up with them.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Zom

Hey, It's not my definition


It may not be your definition, but you did post it. Do you post things as factual information that you don't agree with. I doubt it, so you must agree with the definition.

a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences


The problem I have with that definition is to me a scientist is a person who is using their knowledge to expand their field's knowledge. Learning or having knowledge does not make a person a scientist. However there is more to being a scientist that just using your knowledge.

Zom

@REP

so you must agree with the definition

Whether I agree with it or not doesn't change the definition, so my agreement is immaterial.

Some here are confusing being a Scientist with applying the Scientific Method. The Method is a subset of being a Scientist. Scientific knowledge can continue to exist without the ongoing rigorous application of the Method to ensure it stays accurate. The Method comes into its own when expanding scientific knowledge.

Replies:   REP
Dominions Son

@REP

to me a scientist is a person who is using their knowledge to expand their field's knowledge.


The problem with that, is not all fields are considered sciences, history for example. it doesn't matter how much a historian does to expand knowledge in their field, they still aren't a scientist.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  REP
Ross at Play

@REP

Do you post things as factual information that you don't agree with. I doubt it, so you must agree with the definition.

I certainly quote references quite frequently without necessarily agreeing with statements others have made.

I consider it is "factual information" that some dictionary, or the monster from Chicago, or some other spit-worthy reference makes some statement I quote on a particular subject.

I usually consider it irrelevant whether I agree with the reference or not; I'm comfortable allowing others to decide how credible they consider various references to be.

awnlee jawking

@Zom

I don't think this is the same as the article I read (mine definitely mentioned penicillin in conjunction with Neanderthal tooth problems) but it's along the same lines and it was on the first page of a google search:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/neanderthal-dna-diet-and-self-medicated/

AJ

Replies:   Zom
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

I don't think that's entirely true - what about archaeologists and similar sub-branches of historian?

AJ

awnlee jawking

@REP

Learning or having knowledge does not make a person a scientist.


I hope that 'learning or having knowledge of aeronautics' does not make a person a pilot - I'd rather a 'pilot' had significant practical experience of flying planes ;)

I don't understand why so many people treat dictionaries with such reverence. I think I've pointed out three omissions or mistakes recently. Dictionary compilers are human and not necessarily smarter or more thorough than the people who use their products.

AJ

Replies:   Zom  Not_a_ID  REP
Zom

@awnlee jawking

treat dictionaries with such reverence

For me it is more about respect. Staying with the 'leading' dictionaries, is the only way to have a reliable definition for words. That is their purpose, after all.

I get that the modern trend is to invent new definitions for words, as it is to invent many other variations of things that really do need a fixed meaning or purpose, but that just enables the growing Orwellian redefining of what has gone before.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Zom

@awnlee jawking

but it's along the same lines and it was on the first page of a google search

Yes, that is more along the lines of my understanding. I wasn't aware clear evidence had been found of Neanderthal usage of Penicillium moulds, so thanks for that, but I did know of it being used by prehistoric homo sapiens.

That is, of course, much different to Penicillin (the antibiotic produced by Penicillium) being found on Neanderthal gums :-)

Not_a_ID

@awnlee jawking

I hope that 'learning or having knowledge of aeronautics' does not make a person a pilot - I'd rather a 'pilot' had significant practical experience of flying planes ;)


So what about those "follow me" dudes on construction sites or escorting oversized loads?

Or the guys navigating ships into specific ports. I'd hope that they don't need a license from the FAA for their piloting jobs. 😇

awnlee jawking

@Zom

I remember a talk by someone at OED saying their dictionary was too large to recheck every entry at each edition, and with staff shrinkages they only managed about 10%. Nowadays they seem to concentrate even more of their resources onto text speak, emoticons and temporary fad expressions. It's not surprising they fail to keep up with new usages of existing words, or rectify omissions or errors. And I regard OED as probably the best for British English!

AJ

REP

@Dominions Son

I agree. There are many non-scientific fields where my comment might be applicable. But I will stand by my statement in that it was made in regard to scientific fields.

REP

@Zom

so my agreement is immaterial.


You posted the definition to make a point, so the definition is not immaterial.

Replies:   Dominions Son  Zom
Dominions Son

@REP

You posted the definition to make a point, so the definition is not immaterial.


Dictionary definitions supposedly represent a consensus defined by actual usage. His personal agreement with the definition would there fore be immaterial.

Replies:   REP
REP

@awnlee jawking

What you need to remember about dictionary definitions is - the people who compile the meanings research how people use the words and phrases. They claim that usage defines meaning. With this approach, the meanings of words and phrases change according to the whim of the public using the word or phrase.

A second problem with using the public usage as the meaning of a phrase is the definition of the base word in the phrase often conflicts with the meaning of the phrase in which it is used.

REP

@Dominions Son

Not when he is using a definition to make a point.

awnlee jawking

@REP

What you need to remember about dictionary definitions is - the people who compile the meanings research how people use the words and phrases.


For new entries, certainly. For established words, it can take some considerable time for a new meaning to be incorporated. It used to help if the public submitted new words or meanings but nowadays they don't have the manpower to vet all the submissions thoroughly.

AJ

Replies:   REP
REP

@awnlee jawking

The compilers document the evolution of established words but only update the words when there has been a significant change in the way the words are used.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

They claim that usage defines meaning. With this approach, the meanings of words and phrases change according to the whim of the public using the word or phrase.


it also changes with the whim of the editor deciding to include it or not and deciding what, if any, changes to include or not. Sometimes they'll include a word in the hopes of it becoming a public recognition before it has.

Replies:   REP  PotomacBob
REP

@Ernest Bywater

Also true.

Goldfisherman

In general there is at least one true scientist per generation at best. Like engineers, 99% are claiming to be, but are usually only promoting junk science, or decrying the findings of others.
Take space exploration for example. From the Wright brothers shortly after the turn of the last century from the introduction of the gas powered automobile (steam was first and faster). to putting a man on the moon and returning him. Took about 50 years. How much further have we gone since? in the last 50 years?

PotomacBob

@Ernest Bywater

Sometimes they'll include a word in the hopes of it becoming a public recognition before it has.


Do you have an example?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Zom
Updated:

@REP

so the definition is not immaterial


Didn't say it was. I said my agreement was immaterial.

I posted the definition for information. There was a lot of faith based nattering about what a scientist was. I had hoped to bring clarity to the nattering, forlorn as it was.

I don't have the level of arrogance and hubris to imply that my opinion about the correctness of a dictionary definition has more weight than the dictionary. That would be foolish indeed.

You posted the definition to make a point


What point do you think I was making? I have no idea.

Ernest Bywater

@PotomacBob

Do you have an example?


The one that has always stood out was the distortion of the word decimate to mean the same as devastate was only used by the one TV media person until after it was added to one of the US based dictionaries. Then other reporters started to use it. Now it's seen as an acceptable meanings by several dictionaries.

Another is the use of the word gay to mean homosexual was used by an extremely limited group of people until after it was deemed an acceptable word usage by one dictionary, then it's use started to grow.

Replies:   Zom  Zom
Zom

@Ernest Bywater

distortion of the word decimate to mean the same as devastate

Interesting. My 1964 Oxford dictionary defines 'decimate' as 'to kill a tenth or a large proportion of', which was my understanding before I looked it up.

I suspect if somebody killed a large proportion of your family it would be as a devastation to you.

So maybe not such a 'new' usage after all.

Zom

@Ernest Bywater

gay to mean homosexual was used by an extremely limited group of people

Not including Hanna-Barbera :-)

Ernest Bywater

@Zom

Interesting. My 1964 Oxford dictionary defines 'decimate' as 'to kill a tenth or a large proportion of', which was my understanding before I looked it up.


Back in the mid or late 1970s a live TV reporter for a major international network was covering an alpine avalanche when he used the word decimate when he meant devastate as the avalanche smashed through an evacuated village almost destroying the village. Because the helicopter he was in was the only one available to the media for the first couple of days and he had the helicopter tied up so his was the only live broadcasts of the event which was fairly major at that time. Every time he mentioned the damage he used the word decimate instead of devastate, and he was the only person to misuse the word then. Several months later he misused the word for another natural disaster in the same way and a little later one of the US dictionaries had decimate as having a second meaning which is the same as devastate, since then a lot of people have used it that way. Now a lot of dictionaries have followed the path of the first dictionary to show the second meaning.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Not_a_ID

@Zom

Interesting. My 1964 Oxford dictionary defines 'decimate' as 'to kill a tenth or a large proportion of', which was my understanding before I looked it up.

From my understanding of the history, it dates back to the Romans and literally meant to "reduce by one-tenth" as that's what they would do in certain (disciplinary) actions.

Replies:   sejintenej
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

@Zom
Interesting. My 1964 Oxford dictionary defines 'decimate' as 'to kill a tenth or a large proportion of', which was my understanding before I looked it up.
@You
Back in the mid or late 1970s a live TV reporter ...

WTF?

You quoted the proof that your entire post is a load of rubbish!

That 1970s reporter did not invent a new meaning for 'decimate' which dictionaries then started listing; Zom's quote proves the reporter used it with a meaning already listed in the Oxford dictionary.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Ross at Play

Ross, stop trying to start a flame war out of nothing. The dictionary meaning until it about a year after the tv broadcast of the avalanche was 'to kill on person in ten' and there was no other meaning. The reporter said decimate when the village was devastated after it had been evacuated, thus no one died but buildings were destroyed. He was the only person to misuse the word for a fraction of people being killed when non-living things were destroyed for some time, then one dictionary editor added the meaning due to that reporters usage, and it's since been added to other dictionaries is no used that way by more people because it's in the dictionary.

It's just not possible to kill a building, you can only destroy it or devastate it if s reasonable portion of it is still standing.

Edit to add: You've jumped on the tail end of an exchange about how gatekeepers can change dictionary contents and meanings to nitpick one small aspect with what appears to be the hopes of starting an argument. Sorry, you may now argue with yourself. Quiet some time back you sent me an email telling me not to engage with you on the forums, so i don't except when you choose to engage with me by responding to my posts, and I then reply to that. Even then I try to ignore a lot of your response and limit the ones I reply to, and I will continue to do as you demanded and I'll try to either not interact with you or limit it to the minimum. In this case the I'm going with the minimum and this is the last I have to say on this sub-thread.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Ross, stop trying to start a flame war out of nothing.

I did not start anything. I just pointed out a simple and obvious fact.

We can all see that:

EITHER: this statement, the next sentence you wrote (with my emphasis), is complete rubbish.

The dictionary meaning until it about a year after the tv broadcast of the avalanche was 'to kill [one] person in ten' and there was no other meaning.

OR: Zom was lying about what was written in his dictionary when he posted this:

Interesting. My 1964 Oxford dictionary defines 'decimate' as 'to kill a tenth or a large proportion of'

I doubt Zom lied so I conclude your recollections are faulty.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Quiet some time back you sent me an email telling me not to engage with you on the forums

I will correct that statement for the information of others. I feel obliged to as you mentioned that email here first.

The email you are referring to did not tell you to change what you post on these forums - as if anyone can ever tell you to do anything!

It was a legal demand that you must not attempt to directly contact me by email or phone. It mentioned the Telecommunications Law of Australia so that (as I understand) it became a criminal offence under Australian law for either of us to attempt to contact the other directly using telecommunications infrastructure located in Australia. That law does not give me any power to prevent you from using telecommunications infrastructure in any other way: it does not allow me to prevent you from posting anything on any public forum - and I did not even ask.

It was only ever a symbolic gesture. It had no practical effect, and was not made because you'd ever harassed me by email or phone. I wanted to be absolutely clear I was burning any personal bridges with you, forever, and to the greatest possible extent. I wanted to be sure you understood that while I would tolerate indirect contact with you via these forums, I would never again choose to have any contact with you whatsoever.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

You quoted the proof that your entire post is a load of rubbish!


I'm going to take Ernest's side here. I don't think the 1964 definition cited by Zom can be stretched far enough to cover the total or near total destruction meaning that decimate has since come to take on.

awnlee jawking

@Zom

Interesting. My 1964 Oxford dictionary defines 'decimate' as 'to kill a tenth or a large proportion of',


I have a late 60s Collins dictionary listing the same meaning. So killing a large proportion was already in use, destroying buildings and other structures wasn't.

AJ

robberhands
Updated:

Merriam-Webster:

Regarding the Incorrect Use of 'Decimate'

It's totally fine to use 'decimate' as a synonym for 'devastate'. This is why.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  Zom
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

It's totally fine to use 'decimate' as a synonym for 'devastate'. This is why.


Huh? The sub-heading claims it's going to explain why it's fine to use decimate as a synonym of devastate. Then it doesn't!

The whole chatty style and use of user comments place this firmly in blog territory. The blogger even casts doubt on the etymology of 'decimate', although that's about as close to authenticated fact as you can possibly get in a dictionary because we have original Latin texts corroborating it.

AJ

Dominions Son
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Then it doesn't!


Yes it does. The reason is this: The meanings of words change over time, get over it.

although that's about as close to authenticated fact as you can possibly get in a dictionary because we have original Latin texts corroborating it.


We speak English, not Latin. Just because we borrow a word or two from Latin doesn't mean we are bound forever to 2000+ year old definitions from a dead language.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Yes it does. The reason is this: The meanings of words change over time, get over it.


I disagree. By that argument, you could use any word to have any meaning.

I agree that nowadays 'decimate' and 'devastate' are used by many as though their meanings overlap, but the blog does not justify that particular usage or explain when it became 'acceptable'.

We speak English, not Latin. Just because we borrow a word or two from Latin doesn't mean we are bound forever to 2000+ year old definitions from a dead language.


That wasn't my point. The blogger cast doubt on the etymology.

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

By that argument, you could use any word to have any meaning.


No, a given meaning must reach a minimum level of "popularity" before it becomes acceptable.

I agree that nowadays 'decimate' and 'devastate' are used by many as though their meanings overlap, but the blog does not justify that particular usage


You are wrong. Wide spread usage is all the justification it needs.

or explain when it became 'acceptable'.


Not at all necessary to the argument that wide spread usage today, makes it acceptable.

That wasn't my point. The blogger cast doubt on the etymology.


1. I disagree that he did so.
2. The Latin etymology is completely irrelevant.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Given the title of the story you are currently posting, I'd never have guessed you are such a staunch defender of the etymological meaning of words.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play

I admit to a minor error: I missed the significance of one word in one post.

EB could have responded to my first post with this:

The dictionary definition Zom quoted does not "prove" my statement is incorrect. It only mentions people being killed, but the village had been evacuated and no one were killed in the avalanche.


Instead ... EB succeeded in starting a flame war by accusing me of "trying to start" one! His post began:

Ross, stop trying to start a flame war out of nothing. The dictionary meaning until it about a year after the tv broadcast of the avalanche was 'to kill [one] person in ten' and there was no other meaning.

That statement is utter crap!

There certainly was an "other meaning" already in existence - deaths of a large proportion rather than specifically one-tenth of a population.

That must be the point I stopped reading. Has anyone here NOT reached the point where they see another one of EB's ever-lengthening posts directed at them and just given up reading them? I did not get to the point when he finally said the reason the reporter was misusing the word was because he was referring only to the destruction of property, not to deaths.

The minor error I made was missing the word 'evacuated' in the first post EB made mentioning the TV reporter. Without that word, it was easy to assume there were deaths in all of the natural disasters he mentioned. The inevitable next thought is he was referring to the expansion in meaning of decimate from 'one in ten' to 'one in ten or some large proportion', not the expansion from just deaths of people to include large-scale destruction of property. The opening words he used in his next post confirmed that!

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

No, a given meaning must reach a minimum level of "popularity" before it becomes acceptable.


The blogger has made no attempt to justify that the usage has reached that level. There was even less justification than that required to amend Wikipedia (spit!).

The blogger could have researched the first usage (or asked Ernest) or quoted a respected (ha!) style guide or two. No, they plucked the assertion out of thin air.

The point about the blogger's ignorance of etymology, apart from casting his whole article into disrepute, was evidence of how poorly researched it was:

"The first problem is that even if decimate did refer to the practice of killing one of every ten soldiers in Roman times,"

The salient words are 'even if', showing the blogger doubts the etymology.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

I'm currently reading (and not very quickly) the third book of four in the Millennium Trilogy ;)

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

The salient words are 'even if', showing the blogger doubts the etymology.

No, it shows he disputes the relevance of the etymology.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

The blogger has made no attempt to justify that the usage has reached that level. There was even less justification than that required to amend Wikipedia (spit!).


I would argue that the wide spread existence of complaints about the usage is itself proof that the complained of usage is wide spread.

"The first problem is that even if decimate did refer to the practice of killing one of every ten soldiers in Roman times,"

The salient words are 'even if', showing the blogger doubts the etymology.


You leave out vital context. His point is not doubt about the etymology, even if he does doubt it, but that that etymology of Roman usage is utterly and completely irrelevant to modern English usage of the word.

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

I'm currently reading (and not very quickly) the third book of four in the Millennium Trilogy ;)

Skoll!

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

The email you are referring to did not tell you to change what you post on these forums - as if anyone can ever tell you to do anything!

It was a legal demand that you must not attempt to directly contact me by email or phone. It mentioned the Telecommunications Law of Australia so that (as I understand) it became a criminal offence under Australian law for either of us to attempt to contact the other directly using telecommunications infrastructure located in Australia.


Ross,

As far as I'm concerned this subject on contact is closed with this post by me. On 11 Oct 2016 you sent me a very long email, which i still have in my archives, which stated, after a long discussion on your health and other matters:

MY PROPOSED SOLUTION

I want you to tell me I may ask, at any time, that you delay making any
posts on the forums directed at me. Instead, you may email your drafts to
me. I will return my consent or veto as soon as possible. I may ask for
some revisions – I am not an unreasonable person!


That is not a legal demand as per the telecommunications act, it's a demand I vet all my forum posts in response to you through via email before posting them. Despite that being and unacceptable position to me when I responded to that email in a reasonable manner you sent a reply to me on the next day that said:

From now on, I INSIST you do NOT attempt to contact me at this email
address for any purpose other that letters or notices about possible or
ongoing legal actions. I will reciprocate fully on exactly the same terms.


I took that last post as a letter of demand expanding on your first demand about forum posts. Keeping to the letter of the last email I've not contacted you direct about anything, and keeping with the spirit of the email before that I've limited my forum post where you're concerned. Were I to follow both of your demands by their exact wording I would never be able to post a forum message in response to anything you post because the first demands I clear with you by email and then next one demands I don't email you.

While I took the last email as a clear burning of the bridges and the ending of any direct contact I did check with my lawyer on the word and I was told it could be construed by a court as a proper letter of of demand to cease and desist such actions if the matter was taken to court. Nothing in the two emails indicated you were prepared to continue contact via the forums, and since the email of the 10th Oct 2016 started with a lengthy statement about a forum post comment, I have tried to avoid further conflicts with you in this forum by limiting posts involving yourself in the manner set out earlier.

You may wish to interpret what you said before in a different manner, however, I usually go by the letter of what is said and have done so with the content of both emails. This issue doesn't warrant any further discussion from my perspective, so i won't say anything more on it unless you take it further in a manner I seriously disagree with.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Zom

@robberhands

It's totally fine to use 'decimate' as a synonym for 'devastate'. This is why.

I think it is revealing that the article heading acknowledges that the usage of decimate for devastate is incorrect … but it is 'totally fine' to use it anyway! WTF?

Personally, I accept that word meanings get distorted and changed by colloquial usages on a continuing basis. When pressed, I usually refer to the word 'terrific' which has totally reversed its meaning in recent times, i.e. within the last half century, to the virtual exclusion of its original meaning.

Once leading dictionaries acknowledge the change(s) it is a bit futile opposing same. Until then I reserve the right to rage against the sacrileges.

Replies:   robberhands
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

I disagree. The blogger could dispute the modern-day relevance (which IMO is stupid because it's a vital part of explaining the meaning) without using 'even if'.

A decent dictionary entry should say something like:

Decimate, meaning number N, = devastate. Etymology due to 20th century misuse.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands
Updated:

@Zom

Regarding the Incorrect Use of 'Decimate'

That's the headline of the article. If you believe that means 'the article heading acknowledges that the usage of decimate for devastate is incorrect' I have to disagree.

Replies:   Zom
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

A decent dictionary entry should say something like:

Decimate, meaning number N, = devastate. Etymology due to 20th century misuse.

I'm sure you forgot the smiley after 'misuse'.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

IMO Alec Guinness was the definitive Smiley. I was decimated when they did a remake with Gary Oldman ;)

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

I was decimated when they did a remake with Gary Oldman ;)

In this case, I understand you'd prefer that nine-tenths of you would remain.

Zom

@robberhands

I have to disagree.

I can see your point. You wouldn't want the headline of an article to align with the content. That would be silly.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Zom

You wouldn't want the headline of an article to align with the content. That would be silly.


I don't know if it's silly or not, but it would certainly be exceedingly unusual.

Replies:   Zom  robberhands
Zom

@Dominions Son

it would certainly be exceedingly unusual.

So, it prompts the question, that if the article is 'fake news' is the heading then required to be factual?

Too many levels of indirection! Stack crash. Reboot.

Replies:   Dominions Son
robberhands

@Dominions Son

I can see your point. You wouldn't want the headline of an article to align with the content. That would be silly.

The headline neither states what the incorrect use of 'decimate' is nor what' the correct use is. The term 'regarding' implies that the following article will examine the issue.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

I checked my email records.

I did email a detailed letter to you on 10 Oct in with the final section headed "MY PROPOSED SOLUTION".

Your response began with:

I don't know is this is from you or someone is spoofing your address.


I cannot see how you reached this conclusion, "I took that last post as a letter of demand expanding on your first demand about forum posts." My first letter was a proposal, not a demand. Once you rejected it, flat-out with bonus sarcasm, everything it said became moot

The next letter DID contain demand, but my recollection of how I responded was faulty. I DID NOT cite the Telecommunications Act; I certainly intended to at some stage. What I actually sent was very short:

Mr Bywater,

The fact that you may have unintentionally damaged someone's health is irrelevant to you - the imperative of protecting your ego is far too important to consider anything as trivial as that.

At least I know who you really are now.

From now on, I INSIST you do NOT attempt to contact me at this email address for any purpose other that letters or notices about possible or ongoing legal actions. I will reciprocate fully on exactly the same terms.

Allen Ross Murray.

Dominions Son

@Zom

Part of the problem is that in commercial news operations, the person who writes the article is almost never the person who writes the headline. The headline writer's job is to get you to read the article, not to convey useful information.

While with blogs, the blog writers generally write their own headlines, they have largely followed the commercial news view of headlines, leading to "click bait" headlines.

Capt. Zapp

@Ross at Play

Is this REALLY the place for this? My Gosh, NOBODY else on this site gives 2 turds about your freakin' disagreements! Keep your personal crap out of the forums!

Dominions Son
Updated:

@robberhands


The headline neither states what the incorrect use of 'decimate' is nor what' the correct use is. The term 'regarding' implies that the following article will examine the issue.


1. The quoted complaints about misuse of "decimate" largely spell out what the allegedly "incorrect" use is.

2. The point of the article, even if not well stated is that language in general is not prescriptive and what ever usages of words are widely enough accepted are correct, no mater what the prescriptivists think about it. Trying to fight new usages by citing ancient etymologies from dead languages is pointless and irrational.

My personal opinion on the matter:

It might be useful to fight a new usage/definition when it first starts to pop up. However, in the vast majority of cases once the new usage gains wide acceptance, it's time to admit you lost the war and give up.

There may be cases where a particular usage causes significant problems, and is worth continuing to fight.

An example of this in my opinion is pedophile. Pedophile came into modern language from the field of psychiatry, and in that context, very specifically refers to an adult with a sexual attraction to prepubescent children.

In popular usage it has come to refer to a sexual attraction to minors of any age all the way up to 18.

In my opinion, the application of this usage in law and other contexts does real and significant harm.

Decimate does not qualify for this exception to the "you've lost the war, it's time to give up" rule.

Replies:   robberhands
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Capt. Zapp

Is this REALLY the place for this? My Gosh, NOBODY else on this site gives 2 turds about your freakin' disagreements! Keep your personal crap out of the forums!

I agree totally - which is why I never mentioned it here until he misrepresented what had happened.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

which is why never mentioned it here until he misrepresented what had happened.


Perhaps, but now, you are doing as much if not more than Ernest to keep it going.

Replies:   Ross at Play
robberhands

@Dominions Son

I wholly agree. In the special case of 'decimate', I only wonder why an ancient Latin term with a sole meaning never used by anyone else but ancient Roman commanders would have to be translated into English. If you want to impress someone with your etymological knowledge of useless words, why not stay with the genuine Latin term.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Perhaps, but now, you are doing as much if not more than Ernest to keep it going.

I am willing to stop when he stops saying I "demanded" he stops directing posts at me on this forum. Nothing remotely like that ever happened.

Look at the first words he quoted from my email.

MY PROPOSED SOLUTION
I want you to tell me I may ask ...

Does that look like a "demand" to you? He rejected that, so everything it contained became irrelevant.

I re-read the whole email and it doesn't demand anything; I was still trying for a solution that did not require me to severe all contacts with him forever and as fully as possible. Do you want me to send you a copy of it so you may check that yourself?

Dominions Son
Updated:

@robberhands


I only wonder why an ancient Latin term with a sole meaning never used by anyone else but ancient Roman commanders would have to be translated into English.


It wasn't exactly translated into English.

1. The Roman empire conquered all, or nearly all, of Europe. All of the modern languages of Europe, including English are a mixture of Latin and the languages of the original barbarians in those areas, with other influences thrown in over the intervening 20 centuries.

2. The Roman Catholic Church which had a strong influence on all of Europe, continued to use Latin as it's official language all the way up to the 15th century. While there were early translations of the bible into European languages as early as the 4th century, the church hierarchy resisted allowing these to be made widely available until Martin Luther kicked off the protestant revolution in the 15th century.

All told, it's wholly unsurprising that there are Latin words in English. However, expecting them to retain and still be restricted to their original Roman usages 2000 years later, is completely irrational.

Even had the Roman Empire never fallen, it's highly unlikely that the usages/meanings of Latin words would not have evolved over such a large time span.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

I only wonder why an ancient Latin term

Except ... it's not an ancient Latin term.

I looked in the Wiktionary Latin dictionary. It lists a verb decimo, meaning "select every tenth person for punishment", but not decimate. Strangely too, that only mentions "for punishment", not necessarily "for death".

I agree with the point of your post, BTW. What precise meaning the Romans had for a similar word is irrelevant to the meaning in English.

Replies:   robberhands
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Capt. Zapp


Is this REALLY the place for this? My Gosh, NOBODY else on this site gives 2 turds about your freakin' disagreements!


I haven't read the posts, but I've read similar ones in the past on decimate (and I believe other words where their meanings have changed) so I don't know what's being discussed.

But I believe it's appropriate to have that kind of discussion here. Well, maybe in it's own thread. For those of us who are writers, words are our tools. Understanding words is crucial for us. In fact, I no longer write "dove." Instead, I write "dived" because of these types of discussions.

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
robberhands

@Ross at Play

Except ... it's not an ancient Latin term.

The Latin term is 'decimare', the English term is 'decimate'. I just don't know why anyone would need an English term for a practice never used outside of ancient Rome.

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

My first letter was a proposal, not a demand. Once you rejected it, flat-out with bonus sarcasm


Capt Zapp,

Sorry about the intrusion, and I hope this is the end of it.

.........................

Ross,

I have no wish to post the whole of the email from 10 Oct 2016 because you talk about a lot of personal things which are not my place to make public. Until then our communications had not been antagonistic or acrimonious at all, so when I received an email that's best described as an angry rant I did wonder if it was really from you, which is why I asked if it was from your before responding to it. In that email your first four paragraphs were single sentence paragraphs with the 3rd and fourth being:

That must stop.

I must know that it has stopped.


Then you delved into some personal matters and some other comments before coming back to your proposed solution of having me email my forum posts direct to you before posting them and you include:

Instead, you may email your drafts to me. I will return my consent or veto as soon as possible. I may ask for some revisions – I am not an unreasonable person!

You open with it must stopping and then go onto having the consent or veto or amendment of my posts. That is the language of a demand. You may not see it as that, but that's how it comes across. Will I have not acceded to that, I have tried minimise my forum inter action with you, even to the extent of dropping out of some threads to avoid further exchanges with you, as you wanted. The main exception to that has been when you've responded to me in the way you have in this thread.

I suggest we both move on and not respond to any post the other makes from now on. I'm not sure if we can do that, but we can at least try to remember not to.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

I just don't know why anyone would need an English term for a practice never used outside of ancient Rome.

Perhaps the advent of internet chat rooms has created a valid reason to reintroduce the practice?

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

I haven't read the posts, but I've read similar ones in the past on decimate


What I understood Capt. Zapp to be referring to is a personal disagreement between Ross and Ernest that is separate from the decimate discussion.

Ernest Bywater

@robberhands

The Latin term is 'decimare', the English term is 'decimate'. I just don't know why anyone would need an English term for a practice never used outside of ancient Rome.


because it entered into the English language during the Roman occupation of the British Isles and it was still being practised by the Romans then. There's a lot of Roman words in English that we hardly use, but they're there.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

There's a lot of Roman words in English that we hardly use, but they're there.


There are more than a few that we use regularly, but in a way that has little resemblance to the way the Romans used them.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

You open with it must stopping and then go onto having the consent or veto or amendment of my posts. That is the language of a demand.

FOR FUCK'S SAKE!

Now you are claiming the words "That must stop. I must know that it has stopped" were a demand?

This is the full text up until those words in that email:

Dear Ernest,

THIS IS ENTIRELY ABOUT WHAT IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT MY HEALTH!

Your behaviour is causing serious damage to my health, and it has been doing so for more than two weeks.

That must stop.

I must know that it has stopped.

How can you possibly think that meant anything other than it was the "damage to my health" that "must stop"? I am capable of doing things I consider necessary to protect my health, but not capable of forcing you to change your behaviour!

I make a "proposal"; you rejected it; I proceeded to my next step in protecting my health - burning all bridges with you to the greatest extent possible. It was only possible for me to prohibit any further between us by email, but you got the message, and that was enough to satisfy my need to protect my health.

Anyone who wants a copy of the entire email is welcome to ask.

REP

@Switch Blayde

Switch, the posts Ernest and Ross are exchanging have nothing to do with 'decimate'.

It seems to be a personal disagreement that was set off by Ross's ‎4‎/‎7‎/‎2018‎ ‎12‎:‎30‎:‎10‎ ‎AM post to Ernest in which Ross took umbrage with what Ernest said to Zom.

From there the entire exchange between the two of them went downhill.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@REP

Not quite.

It was an everyday stupid fight about the word 'decimate' until EB directed a post at me beginning with:

As far as I'm concerned this subject on contact is closed with this post by me ...


THAT'S when it went downhill. I took umbrage with him misrepresented here what I'd written to him in an email. And the subject certainly was not "closed" from his side.

But you're right about one thing ... others would be well advised to steer clear of everything we are saying to each other. :(

sejintenej

@Not_a_ID

From my understanding of the history, it dates back to the Romans and literally meant to "reduce by one-tenth" as that's what they would do in certain (disciplinary) actions.

Correct. If a unit was found guilty of cowardice or other suitable offence the men would be lined up and every tenth soldier would be killed where he stood. Deci = ten.

I can understand a small allowance for error but condemn the presenter who misused the word (he/she/IT is supposed to be well qualified and certainly not illiterate) and equally condemn the dictionary compilers who went along with it. This is a word which has a clear historical certainty - unlike for example "gay" - so it's provenance should not be distorted by those not qualified to judge - like a media presenter or dictionary compiler.

So, if I use the word "gay" it means showing happiness and not a male arse plugger

Replies:   REP  Not_a_ID  awnlee jawking
REP

@sejintenej

I can understand a reporter using the wrong word; that is not a problem.

People who control what goes into a dictionary as definitions supposedly require the new meaning to be in common use by a significant number of people.

Now if the dictionary added 'destruction of property' to the meaning of decimate based on this single reporters use of the word decimate instead of devastate, then that is a problem.

In general, bloggers' opinions are just that opinions, and a lot of us disagree with their opinions. If you look at this blogger's article, you will note that there is no name associated with the article and the credentials of the writer are not listed. So who is this person - the janitor or a mailroom clerk or perhaps a high school dropout.

Replies:   Dominions Son  Zom  sejintenej
Dominions Son
Updated:

@REP


the janitor or a mailroom clerk or perhaps a high school dropout.


With access to to post articles to the official Merriam-Webster blog on the official Merriam-Webster web site?

The suggestion that it might be a janitor, a mail room clerk or some random high school dropout is patently absurd.

ETA:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play

None of the articles, even the current ones, have a byline.

But this is the official company blog of Merriam Webster on their official web site, it is not some random blog on the internet.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

The suggestion that it might be a janitor, a mail room clerk or some random high school dropout is patently absurd.


Absurd???

I consider the content of the article to be absurd.

Since you seem to support the idea that the person who wrote the article is qualified, please tell me about their credentials. Since you don't know, the above comment, which I do not considered highly viable, could be true. Many high school dropouts, mail room clerks, and janitors have enough education and are smart enough to write such an article.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

Many high school dropouts, mail room clerks, and janitors have enough education and are smart enough to write such an article.


That's an irrelevant question. Do you really immagine that such a person would have access to post an article to a major corporation's official blog? That's the only question that matters in relevance to your suggestion.

Whether the person responsible for the article in question is qualified or not, they clearly have some rank in the Merriam Webster company or they wouldn't have had the access to post the article.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Whether the person responsible for the article in question is qualified or not, they clearly have some rank in the Merriam Webster company or they wouldn't have had the access to post the article.


It's true they have to have some rank, but that doesn't mean they're qualified, and even if they're qualified that doesn't mean they're right. Think of the large number of qualified people with rank and authority seriously told Goddard rockets would never work in space because they had nothing to push against. Or those with the proper knowledge who told the Wright Brothers their contraption would never fly.

Plenty of people in gatekeeper positions do things they shouldn't and do things that are wrong. Not always, but often enough for most people to keep huge salt blocks on hand.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

It's true they have to have some rank, but that doesn't mean they're qualified, and even if they're qualified that doesn't mean they're right.


I never specifically claimed that the author was definitively qualified.

It remains the case that suggesting that an article on a companies official blog on their official website was written by a janitor or mail room clerk or some random dropout off the street is patently absurd.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

that an article on a companies official blog on their official website was written by a janitor or mail room clerk or some random dropout off the street is patently absurd.


Unless of course the upper management approved of what that lowly individual wrote and authorized its publication. As Ernest said, there are a lot of idiots in this world.

Zom
Updated:

@REP

I can understand a reporter using the wrong word; that is not a problem.


When did we degenerate to that expectation?

News sources should be correct. Not just factual, but also unambiguous. We should not have to 'interpret' what a reporter provides.

I know that 'reporting' these days has, to a great extent, degenerated into sensational sometimes politically biased opinion pieces which often have little relation to the truth, but I for one don't consider that garbage to be generated by reporters. That garbage is generated by ratings driven sensation seekers who are pandering to the lowest common denominator in their perceived audiences. It is soapie 'journalism'.

It is getting harder every day to find balanced factual reporting. /rant

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Dominions Son

@REP

Unless of course the upper management approved of what that lowly individual wrote and authorized its publication.


There is a very high probability that either someone in upper management at Merriam Webster or one of their senior editors wrote it in the first place.

There may be a lot of idiots out there, but very very few of them have access to post to the company blog at the publisher of the biggest US based dictionary.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Zom


When did we degenerate to that expectation?


What makes you think any degeneration was involved.

More like people are waking up and taking reporters down off of a pedestal that was built of unreasonable expectations.

News sources should be correct. Not just factual, but also unambiguous. We should not have to 'interpret' what a reporter provides.


Not bad for an ideal, but I'm skeptical that US news media have ever lived up to it.

I know that 'reporting' these days has, to a great extent, degenerated into sensational sometimes politically biased opinion pieces which often have little relation to the truth, but I for one don't consider that garbage to be generated by reporters.


Look at news articles about elections and politicians in papers from 100 years ago, you will likely find that things haven't changed nearly as much as you think they have.

It is getting harder every day to find balanced factual reporting. /rant


I see little evidence that such reporting ever existed.

Replies:   Zom  REP
robberhands

@REP

Unless of course the upper management approved of what that lowly individual wrote and authorized its publication. As Ernest said, there are a lot of idiots in this world.

I'd prefer you'd offer a counter argument to the article rather than claiming the author is a 'lowly individual' or an idiot. When you're on it you can list your credentials to add all the credibility you deem important to bolster your opinion.

Replies:   REP
Zom
Updated:

@Dominions Son

I see little evidence that such reporting ever existed

And I think I am cynical :-)

There was a time in my youth when reporting was much closer to ideal. Part of the reason for this is that it was completely devoid of opinion. There was an industry made of exposing 'untruths' in other's reporting. True peer accountability was in place.

Of course, politicians and public servants did lie, and reporters reported what was said and done, but without comment on its veracity, so I suppose some could have considered the reporting was supporting, but it wasn't, it was just being honest.

I can't say whether it was ever the case in the US. The first amendment there sort of puts the lie to any notion of accountability, so perhaps not. But Oz had a strong British heritage with the stiff upper lip and all that. Honour actually meant something intrinsically, and not as a means to an end.

Don't tell me … 'good old days' syndrome. But not completely.

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

There is a very high probability that either someone in upper management at Merriam Webster or one of their senior editors wrote it in the first place.


I rate it as high as 1%.

Companies with an internet presence have accepted the assertion that they have to keep supplying new and entertaining content. Rather than drag people away from their real work (and OED has so few dictionary compilers that each entry is only rechecked every ten editions or less), they dump the task of writing entertaining articles on interns and trainees.

The article is well written, but the negligible amount of research, the lack of etymological knowledge, and the liberal use of twitter quotes clearly indicates the author is not an experienced dictionary compiler.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands  Dominions Son  REP
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

The article is well written, but the negligible amount of research, the lack of etymological knowledge, and the liberal use of twitter quotes clearly indicates the author is not an experienced dictionary compiler.

The core statement of the article is that the etymology is largely irrelevant for the present definition of a word and you demand more etymological research to prove his point. How utterly compelling.

Why does it even matter who the fuck wrote the article? It's published on the Merriam-Webster website. I stumbled about when I looked up the definition of 'decimate' and I linked it because it examined the issue coming up here. That's all to it.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  REP
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

you demand more etymological research to prove his point.


No, the author needs some usage research to prove their point, but a dictionary compiler wouldn't rubbish existing, verified etymology.

Why does it even matter who the fuck wrote the article?


I didn't raise that issue. But it's clearly written more for entertainment than education. Oxford Dictionaries has similar blogs (although they identify the authors).

AJ

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

No, the author needs some usage research to prove their point, but a dictionary compiler wouldn't rubbish existing, verified etymology.

That the author 'rubbished existing, verified etymology' is apparently your personal pet peeve but I still fail to see where you got that impression.

From the article:

The issue that many people have with the decline and fall of the word decimate is that is once upon a time it had a very singular meaning, a meaning that is in danger of being lost forever to the vandals and barbarian hordes who are manhandling the English language through using this word to mean "to destroy a large number of." The specific complaint is that decimate had the specific meaning, in ancient Rome, of killing one of every ten soldiers, as a form of military punishment.

Was the sense meaning "to select by lot and kill every tenth man of" the original use of decimate in English? Yes, it was, but not by much. Our earliest record of this meaning is from the end of the 16th century; by the beginning of the 17th century the word had already taken on an additional meaning ("to tithe"). Furthermore, the word decimation, meaning "a tithing," had been in use for about 60 years before decimate began to be used in any fashion.

Where exactly does it 'rubbish existing, verified etymology'? And what etymological wisdom do you know that the author didn't mention?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Dominions Son

@Zom

There was a time in my youth when reporting was much closer to ideal.


Perhaps, but if you look at certain newspaper articles from the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th century, there are examples that are as bad as, if not worse than, what comes out of the major media today.

Replies:   Zom
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

I rate it as high as 1%.


And I rate your rating as baseless speculation.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


No, the author needs some usage research to prove their point


The thousands of people all over the internet, wasting God alone knows how much time, to complain about the usage of decimate as a synonym for devastate is itself proof of their point.

Edited to add:
Here's the opening paragraph of the article:

The word decimate is what we might delicately refer to as a problem word. It seems to invite spleen, at least on the part of a small but committed group of linguistic enthusiasts who feel that it is often misused. Here is a sample of comments regarding decimate that have been left by our dictionary's users.


And here's how the twitter quotes are introduced:

Lest you think that this is the sort of biased sample that one only finds by scrolling through the comments on a dictionary site, one may find similar feelings expressed on Twitter—including one from someone who appears to have ended a romantic entanglement over the matter.


Think about this, would the complaints be so wide spread if the complained of usage wasn't even more wide spread than the complaints?

How much time have you wasted here complaining about it?

If the usage is so rare, why are you so bothered by it? Why does the blog article at issue bother you so much?

Or do you encounter that usage everywhere and just can't accept it?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Good point. The apparent contradiction with the earlier 'Even if', which is intended to cause doubt, suggests multiple authors.

FWIW I rummaged through some old boxes of books in the hope of finding a dictionary published just after WWII. I failed, but I did come across a dictionary-cum-encyclopaedia published in 1958. It only listed the one in ten meaning for 'decimate'. That could be because the compilers weren't thorough, or it could be that Ernest's timeline is correct, or it could be that British-English and American-English had different timelines for the mutation. With learning, in Latin, being the monopoly of monasteries for so long in English history, there's perhaps a far greater respect for etymology and word-origins than in the colonies.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Think about this, would the complaints be so wide spread if the complained of usage wasn't even more wide spread than the complaints?


Do you actually think a few people on Twitter are a representative sample of the population at large?

AJ

Dominions Son
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


Do you actually think a few people on Twitter are a representative sample of the population at large?


It's more than just a few people and not just on Twitter. The quoted complaints, both those received directly by Merriam Webster and the quotes from Twitter were presented as a sample, not the full universe of complaints.

I've personally seen complaints about this exact word on other threads on the SOL forum. I've personally seen at least a few dozen complaints about decimate on other internet forums.

Again, if the "incorrect" usage is so uncommon, why do you personally feel it's worth spending time here complaining about it?

Replies:   REP  awnlee jawking
REP

@Zom

We should not have to 'interpret' what a reporter provides.


I agree with most of that Zom. The thing about reporters is they are human and like all humans, they occasionally misspeak. If you check out Ernest's earlier post, the reporter was making a live broadcast from a helicopter. He didn't have an editor or proofreader to correct his misuse of the word. He probably reached into his mind for an appropriate word and decimate popped up instead of devastate and he went with it without realizing his error.

REP

@Dominions Son

Not bad for an ideal, but I'm skeptical that US news media have ever lived up to it.


Way back when, the owner of a newspaper main agenda was to report the news. His reporters prepared articles containing primarily the factual results of their investigations. Today's newspaper owners have political, religious, and financial agendas other than reporting the news. Their reporters are out to create the news, not report it. That is typically done by cherry picking facts and then preparing articles that satisfy the owners' agenda and the articles contain more opinion than fact. That is true of both the liberal and conservative media sources.

REP

@robberhands

I'd prefer you'd offer a counter argument to the article


Then I would just be another blogger expressing my opinions as if they were fact.

REP

@Zom

Honour actually meant something intrinsically, and not as a means to an end.


That appears to have been true of the US media a long, long time ago.

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Maybe you'll like this article better:

Does 'decimate' mean 'destroy one tenth'?

blog.oxforddictionaries.com, Author Ammon Shea

Ammon Shea is a consulting editor for American Dictionaries for Oxford University Press.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
REP

@awnlee jawking

The article is well written


The article appears well written for it was run through a host of editors and proofreaders. Your observation on interns and trainees is probably accurate, so I wonder what the author's version looked like.

Not_a_ID

@sejintenej

So, if I use the word "gay" it means showing happiness and not a male arse plugger


I still think a lot of "the linkage" to make homosexuality and being called "gay" has to do with the stereotype of them often behaving "particulary Cheerful/boisterous" and often giving "demonstrations of affection" which could be easily compared to the "classical" usage of "behaving as though participating in a gay(particularly happy) occasion."

REP

@robberhands

Why does it even matter who the fuck wrote the article? It's published on the Merriam-Webster website.


Who wrote the article is of little to no importance. What matters is the policy and procedures that companies like Merriam-Webster use to determine if usage is a proper approach to creating a new word definition when the proposed definition clearly violates the entomology of the current definition. For most of us dictionaries are the standard for determining the meaning of a word. So if every time the misuse of a word is added to the word's definition, the meaning of a word would soon be meaningless and the speaker/writer of the word could use it to mean whatever they wanted it to mean. That extreme would be the breakdown of communication.

Replies:   Ross at Play
sejintenej

@REP

I can understand a reporter using the wrong word; that is not a problem.

In my view it is a problem. A reporter, whether on radio, TV or dead tree is in a position to and is often expected to guide and influence the audience and the publisher / broadcasting company is using all means possible to increase the number of people influenced by that reporter. Therefore if such errors are made a subsequent correction should be made on/in the same medium.

Bloggers are a different animal. Sensible people accept that thy are probably ordinary plebs and should be less affected. Certainly Old Uncle Tom Cobbley (people from the South and West Hams will know of him) as an example would not influence anyone and do wh know who these other erks really are? We do know that some are Kremlin slaves trying to influence voting and reaction to the use of nerve poisons etc.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

why do you personally feel it's worth spending time here complaining about it?


Probably for the same reason I have a problem with the modified definition.

One of the purposes of this Forum is supposedly to discuss the proper use of the English language in stories. If we rely on dictionaries as the source of word meanings, which we do, then it would be nice to have a high degree of confidence in their providing appropriate/proper/correct meanings.

If Ernest's view is correct, the modified meaning was added because of a single usage of the word that was accepted by a few people. The person apparently misused the word and then attempted to cover-up his mistake by insisting the way he used the word was correct. The dictionary compilers should have recognize the situation for what it was and not added the meaning until the meaning of 'destroy property' was more prevalent in our language.

Relying on a dictionary for the proper meaning of a word when the compilers will add anything they think is 'neat' at the moment is not a good thing in my opinion.

REP
Updated:

@sejintenej


Therefore if such errors are made a subsequent correction should be made on/in the same medium.


I agree. However, at the time, the improper use of a single word was not that important to his viewers. Apparently, only a couple of viewers took issue with the misused word. If the media issued corrections/apologies for every misused word, they would spend a significant portion of the time in corrections. That would be especially true in that reporters currently seem to have difficulty coming up with new words to supplement those they have already worn out.

ETA: I doubt that viewers/readers want to go through numerous correction when they didn't find the original error objectionable.

Replies:   sejintenej
Dominions Son

@REP

If Ernest's view is correct, the modified meaning was added because of a single usage of the word that was accepted by a few people. The person apparently misused the word and then attempted to cover-up his mistake by insisting the way he used the word was correct. The dictionary compilers should have recognize the situation for what it was and not added the meaning until the meaning of 'destroy property' was more prevalent in our language.


Again, even if all that is true, it happened nearly fifty years ago, I'd have been on your side back then.

However, the usage does appear to be widely accepted now. How that happened isn't particularly relevant.

So what in particular makes that fight still worth fighting today?

Replies:   REP
robberhands

@REP

If Ernest's view is correct...

That's a rather big 'if'.

OUPblog
Oxford University Press's

Should "Decimate" be Annihilated?:

The LSSU press release notwithstanding, complaints about decimate have been around for a bit longer than "several years." Richard Grant White, one of the most popular commentators on language in the nineteenth century, was griping about it as far back as 1868, in an article in The Galaxy entitled "Words and Their Uses," as well as a widely read book of the same name published two years later. (This is a fine example of what the linguist Arnold Zwicky has called the Recency Illusion: "the belief that things YOU have noticed only recently are in fact recent.") White's observations on decimate grew out of the writing of Civil War correspondents, as in: "The troops, although fighting bravely, were terribly decimated, and gave way." Because this sense does not accord with the "one-tenth" etymology, Grant argued that "to use decimation as a general phrase for great slaughter is simply ridiculous." Following White's cue, Edward A. Freeman wrote in the 1881 Princeton Review that "the word is dragged in without any thought of its real meaning, without so much as any thought of the number ten."

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

So what in particular makes that fight still worth fighting today?


The updated meaning was apparently added before the new usage had become common usage. I can visualize some complier saying, "I like using the word to mean that. I think I'll add it to the dictionary." If that, or something similar, is the dictionary companies current practice, we can no longer rely on dictionaries for appropriate meanings.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

The updated meaning was apparently added before the new usage had become common usage.


So what. That part happened half a century ago. How is complaining about it today anything other than pointless.

If that, or something similar, is the dictionary companies current practice, we can no longer rely on dictionaries for appropriate meanings.


I would consider that a valid justification for continuing the fight over decimate in particular only if you could come up with more than just this one example, and at that, more than just a handful of examples at least some of which would have to be recent to demonstrate an on-going issue.

Note: completely new words don't qualify as examples of this.

Replies:   REP
REP

@robberhands

I can see a difference of opinion regarding proper use of the word in regard to the number of people killed. But the issue under discussion is, the use of decimate to mean the destruction of property. That is a very different issue.

What if a dictionary were to say that Red is synonymous with Green? Would you agree with the new meaning of Red just because it is in a dictionary.?

robberhands

@REP

But the issue under discussion is, the use of decimate to mean the destruction of property. That is a very different issue.

The issue under discussion is the alleged misuse of 'decimate'. If you want to retreat to EB's anecdotal example that's fine with me, although in that case I'd also expect a bit more than his memory of an incident that allegedly happened 50 years ago.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

only if you could come up with more than just this one example


While I disagree with the meaning having been added to the dictionary, I'm not out to change the dictionaries.

I would also point out, the issue is not about how long ago it happened or how many similar inappropriate word definitions have been added. The real issue is to change the dictionaries' approach to modifying the process of adding new meanings for existing words. But I am aware of my limitations and I'm not up to fighting that battle.

Dominions Son

@REP

I can see a difference of opinion regarding proper use of the word in regard to the number of people killed.


Actually, according to the Oxford blog entry robberhands cited, by a contributing editor, not anonymous, the earliest English usage appears to be in reference to tithing (giving the church 1/10th of your income).

That article further claims that decimate was applied to the Roman practice of punishing one soldier in 10 retrospectively in medieval times (both the tithing and the application to Roman military discipline date to the 16th and/or 17th centuries).

If that article is correct, the kill 1 in 10 usage is just as incorrect as the modern devastate synonym usage, from a perspective of etymological purity.

Replies:   REP  sejintenej
REP

@robberhands

The issue under discussion is the alleged misuse of 'decimate'


Ah, that sounds like you are saying that Dictionary companies are GODs and cannot make a mistake.

Thus the addition of a significantly different meaning for decimate is valid and all of the complaints people have brought up since then are just "alleged misuse".

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@REP

Ah, that sounds like you are saying that Dictionary companies are GODs and cannot make a mistake.

If that sounds to you like that I'd recommend you check your hearing.

sejintenej

@REP

That would be especially true in that reporters currently seem to have difficulty coming up with new words to supplement those they have already worn out.

Reporting of events should be purely factual. "There has been a very large number of deaths" as opposed to "The place has been decimated" as an example.

I can understand a victim or amateur witness found on the street making mistakes - the populace could expect grammatical type errors.

Where ouloos (had to translate from original foreign characters)are sitting round yakking like elks and wolves in heat then they should be educated and capable of proper speech before being invited.

ETA: I doubt that viewers/readers want to go through numerous correction when they didn't find the original error objectionable

It is not a case of being objectionable; from what I read the National Enquirer publishes facts which many find objectionable and political party members might find the utterances of opponents objectionable. The media (of all types) is supposed to be EDUCATING the populace and especially be putting FACTS in front of them. How would you feel if your if little Johnnie is being taught wrong spelling in school? Hopefully you would object most vehemently so what is wrong with a different educator correcting their mistake?
I suspect that the bosses of the medium (or school) concerned would become embarrassed by having to publish so many corrections and do something to educate their staff.

You, REP, wrote:
Today's newspaper owners have political, religious, and financial agendas other than reporting the news. Their reporters are out to create the news, not report it. That is typically done by cherry picking facts and then preparing articles that satisfy the owners' agenda and the articles contain more opinion than fact. That is true of both the liberal and conservative media sources

How correct and how regrettable

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

the earliest English usage appears to be in reference to tithing (giving the church 1/10th of your income).


If you were to reread that blog, you would find that the author said the meaning of tithing and killing were both common usages of decimate. He also states that it is not clear as to which meaning came first.

sejintenej
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Actually, according to the Oxford blog entry robberhands cited, by a contributing editor, not anonymous, the earliest English usage appears to be in reference to tithing (giving the church 1/10th of your income).


OK, I can live with that in that the authority seizes one tenth of income or possessions, the fixed 10 percent creating the "deci".

It does not tie in with a loss of anywhere between perhaps 5% and 85% in an act of God or the act of an unauthorised body being referred to with the word decimate

Edit: REP has referred to this in the previous post. Normally it would be alien to me to agree with anyone but this is the exception.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
REP
Updated:

@sejintenej


from what I read the National Enquirer publishes facts


My opinion is the National Enquirer has never been considered a credible source of fact. That opinion was developed some years ago by articles like, the one about a woman claiming that the father of her child was an alien from outer space. The NE presented it as fact.

"Yellow Journalism" has been around for a long time. The media outlets that dabbled in that form of journalism lacked credibility.

How correct and how regrettable


I know. That is one of the reasons I don't trust what I read and hear from the media. Unfortunately, we typically do not have access to the facts. All we get are the media's version of the facts.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@REP

My opinion is the National Enquirer has never been considered a credible source of fact. That opinion was developed some years age by articles like, the one about a woman claiming that the father of her child was an alien from outer space. The NE presented it as fact.

This is exactly what I thought (and tried to allude to without being liable for misrepresentation) but tell that to the little old lady who reads it religiously every week and hears nothing better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Replies:   sejintenej  REP
sejintenej

@sejintenej

This is exactly what I thought (and tried to allude to without being liable for misrepresentation) but tell that to the little old lady who reads it religiously every week and hears nothing better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We had a similar newspaper in the UK which provided a laugh a minute for the first two copies (something like the Eiffel Tower being found on the moon or some such rubbish); after that it was a bore

REP
Updated:

@sejintenej


but tell that to the little old lady who reads it religiously every week


There are many people who just accept what the media tells them without thinking about the credibility of the statements. I think they are called Believers. :)

richardshagrin

Desi-mate would be Lucile Ball, wife of Desi Arnaz.

Replies:   REP  awnlee jawking
REP

@richardshagrin

It must have taken a while to come up with that one. :)

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@REP

Only a few minutes. The mate part was almost automatic, I had to look up Desi, and check the spelling for Arnaz. I had Arnass for a while, and that might have lead to being a donkey or an ass. It was not a week pun. Took much less time than that.

Replies:   Zom
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Although I wouldn't personally use 'decimate' in the context 'the village was decimated by the avalanche', I don't believe I have complained about anyone else using it.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Ammon Shea is a consulting editor for American Dictionaries for Oxford University Press.


Heh!

I know someone who is an occasional consultant editor for the British English versions, employed on an as-needed basis - yep, a posh. zero hours contract. I think everyone who works there who has any input to the dictionaries has 'editor' in their jobtitle.

I don't see a contradiction in 'decimate' referring to a tithe, traditionally 10%, and killing 10% of a group of soldiers.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
awnlee jawking

@sejintenej

So, if I use the word "gay"


There's another meaning of gay ie wrong. Oxford Dictionaries list something similar but either they haven't got it quite right or they were unaware of the particular nuance eg 'Playing Lionel Messi in goal is gay.'

AJ

awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin

Desi-mate would be someone who had sex with a grey racehorse ;)

(Desert Orchid, for non-Brits)

AJ

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play

@REP

So if every time the misuse of a word is added to the word's definition, the meaning of a word would soon be meaningless and the speaker/writer of the word could use it to mean whatever they wanted it to mean. That extreme would be the breakdown of communication.

The process is not based on the meaning intented by spoeaker/writer, but on the understanding and acceptance of the listener/reader.

The test for adding new meanings to dictionaries would be that their new uses or misuses of words did NOT result in a breakdown of communication.

Replies:   Zom  sejintenej
Zom

@Dominions Son

if you look at certain newspaper articles from the 19th century

I would be interested to see one you recommend.

Zom

@richardshagrin

I had Arnass for a while

Was it painful?

Replies:   richardshagrin
Zom

@Ross at Play

did NOT result in a breakdown of communication

There would be a lot of scope for confusion and misunderstanding and annoyance before getting to 'breakdown', so maybe a less radical test?

Replies:   Ross at Play
richardshagrin

@Zom

Was it painful?

I had to stand up and walk around every hour or so. Sitting in front of the computer screen isn't as easy as it looks. And every three or four hours I need to visit either the refrigerator for food or someplace to get rid of it.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Zom

There would be a lot of scope for confusion and misunderstanding and annoyance before getting to 'breakdown', so maybe a less radical test?

I concede my explanation was not very good but you seem to have got the point I was trying to make.

What the compilers of dictionaries consider is not new ways some attempt to use words, but whether others interpret those attempts correctly and are willing to accept them.

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

I know someone who is an occasional consultant editor for the British English versions, employed on an as-needed basis - yep, a posh. zero hours contract. I think everyone who works there who has any input to the dictionaries has 'editor' in their jobtitle.

You are hard to please.

Here you have the ultimate authority's opinion on the matter - Grammar Girl:

"Decimate"

What's the Trouble? Some people cling to the belief that decimate can only mean "reduction by 10%."

What Should You Do? Use "decimate" without fear to describe a huge culling or loss. Because of its roots, "decimate" is particularly well used when describing significant casualties in a population of military troops or another group of people, but it can be used to describe any extreme loss.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
sejintenej

@Ross at Play

The test for adding new meanings to dictionaries would be that their new uses or misuses of words did NOT result in a breakdown of communication.

I found a slight problem when I was researching for a competition published by some US flour company. How many two letter words can you find. The Guildhall library has a long long line of parts of a single dictionary. I think there must have been over 20 words starting with A and having a mere two letters. It is that bad that I wonder how many possible combinations of letters are not in that dictionary

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@sejintenej

It is that bad that I wonder how many possible combinations of letters are not in that dictionary

zq (noun)
pronunciation: zuk

the worst scenario imaginable for some situation
Example: I think Trump's election as president is a zq.

Entemology: A compiler of words for the Scrabble Dictionary had a nervous breakdown and no one detected his sabotage until after the next edition had been published.

Replies:   sejintenej  Zom
sejintenej
Updated:

@Ross at Play


re ZQ Entemology: A compiler of words for the Scrabble Dictionary had a nervous breakdown and no one detected his mistake until after the next edition was published


I can get ZO and ZA but ZO is not approved of in US scrabble apparently. We also have CH which the US does not accept. Don't ask me what any of those actually mean!

source: http://phrontistery.info/scrabble3.html

which is good for those boring moments or if you want words which went out of use in the 1600s

Incidentally, after checking "alright" in my Collins Concise dictionary I found that "Z" is both a noun and an adjective (and it is not a chemical symbol).

Zom

@Ross at Play

the worst scenario imaginable for some situation

That zqs.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

What Should You Do? Use "decimate" without fear to describe a huge culling or loss. Because of its roots, "decimate" is particularly well used when describing significant casualties in a population of military troops or another group of people, but it can be used to describe any extreme loss.


Grammar Girl is wrong. A large proportion of the population are going to think 'decimate' sounds unnatural in that context, even if they're not sure it's wrong.

It's better to use an uncontentious word that won't alienate readers.

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
awnlee jawking

@awnlee jawking

One for the ladeez ...

Decimate - a period of about a fifth of a second.

Totally irrelevant thread drift. I thought when birds mated, the male clambered atop the female. But I saw a couple of birds on a rooftop apparently conjoin tail-to-tail for about a second. (No, I don't know how many orgasms the female had, or even which, if either, was the female.)

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

A large proportion of the population are going to think 'decimate' sounds unnatural in that context, even if they're not sure it's wrong.

A large proportion by weight or large by numbers?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@sejintenej

It does not tie in with a loss of anywhere between perhaps 5% and 85% in an act of God or the act of an unauthorised body being referred to with the word decimate


Perhaps it arose idiomatically. Consider 'Can I talk to you for a second'. It's not literally accurate: South Korean computers can exchange up to a Gigabit of information in a second, but human beings can't even get out a whole word, let alone a meaningful sentence.

There's a historical trend of underplaying quantities and times when speaking idiomatically (eg a couple of), and decimate may well have fallen victim to the same sort of idiomatic understatement.

AJ

Replies:   sejintenej
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Yes :)

AJ

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

But I saw a couple of birds on a rooftop apparently conjoin tail-to-tail for about a second.


Some raptors (falcon's, bald eagles, red-tail hawks) have been known to mate in the air. They will fly up to their altitude limit, lock their talons together and mate in free fall.

Replies:   robberhands  sejintenej
robberhands

@Dominions Son

They will fly up to their altitude limit, lock their talons together and mate in free fall.

That sounds dangerous. I hope they use protection.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@robberhands

That sounds dangerous.


Only if they get so into it that they hit the ground before finishing. Seriously, they probably have several minutes from start before they would hit the ground and the whole process probably doesn't take even half that.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Dominions Son

Seriously, they probably have several minutes from start before they would hit the ground and the whole process probably doesn't take even half that.

They still should use protection. There are more dangers through sexual contact than crashing on the ground.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@robberhands

There are more dangers through sexual contact than crashing on the ground.


When having sex in open air free fall, crashing on the ground is the most pressing problem.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

lock their talons together and mate in free fall.

Don't even suggest it; I immediately had a vision of men and women, boys and girls who jump off a bridge in New Zealand and go into free fall. Surely they don't get the required minimum of two and a half minutes?

awnlee jawking

@sejintenej

Google 'bungee sex' or similar ;)

AJ

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@awnlee jawking

Google 'bungee sex' or similar

Each to his or her own taste - I prefer warmth and comfort and no wind or even an audience to give marks out of ten

Dominions Son
Updated:

@sejintenej


Surely they don't get the required minimum of two and a half minutes?


Surely there aren't any bridges that are even a tenth the height of the maximum altitude that raptors are capable of achieving.

The equivalent for humans would be jumping out of an airplane at upwards of 30,000 feet and having sex on the way down before opening their parachutes.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Dominions Son

The equivalent for humans would be jumping out of an airplane at upwards of 30,000 feet and having sex on the way down before opening their parachutes.


Per this source https://www.quora.com/If-you-jumped-out-of-a-plane-at-10-000-feet-how-long-would-it-take-to-hit-the-ground human vertical speed in free fall is 11 seconds for the first 1000 feet and 5.5 seconds for every 1000 feet after that.

Minimum safe altitude for deploying a regular parachute is around 2000 feet, so jumping from 30K feet you have 28K feet to have sex which would take 2.65 minutes (159.5) seconds in free fall.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  REP
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Minimum safe altitude for deploying a regular parachute is around 2000 feet, so jumping from 30K feet you have 28K feet to have sex which would take 2.65 minutes (159.5) seconds in free fall.


You can extend the time by using a para-glide suit.

Edit to add: bet it would be cold to do it.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

You can extend the time by using a para-glide suit.


Wouldn't wearing a para-glide suit interfere with the having sex part?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Wouldn't wearing a para-glide suit interfere with the having sex part?


I'd expect you'd need specially made ones with holes or flaps where needed.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

Crotchless para-glide suits!

I can imagine other markets for them besides aerobatic coupling. ;)

AJ

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

Crotchless para-glide suits!

I can imagine other markets for them besides aerobatic coupling. ;)


since you can get para-glide suits with fancy designs (I saw a video of a guy in a para-glide suit that made him look like a huge eagle), I can see some fancy ones being good for adult halloween parties and other adult only fancy dress parties.

REP

@awnlee jawking

They may have been mating but,

The positions and postures birds assume to mate can vary, but the most common is for the male bird to balance on top of the female.

The female may hunch or bow to give the male easier balance. She will then move her tail aside to expose her cloaca to his reach, and he will arch his body so his cloaca can touch hers. The brief rubbing of cloacas may last less than a second, but the sperm is transferred quickly during this "cloacal kiss" and the mating is complete.


https://www.thespruce.com/how-do-birds-mate-386108

Now that would be a quickie!

REP
Updated:

@Dominions Son

2000 feet is the 'safe' altitude. When I was into sport parachuting, a couple of my fellow jumpers would push the limit for the additional thrill. One claimed that he pulled his ripcord at 700 feet above the ground. I think they were all stupid and crazy.

I also knew one jumper who told me about his main chute doing a cigarette roll. At the time, it was common to deploy your reserve chute before cutting away from your main. He did that and his reserve chute tangled with his main, and neither opened. He went almost all the way down. There happened to be 3 tall trees at his drop zone. He went through them and his chutes snagged on the trees. He came to a stop with his feet about 10 feet off the ground. A couple of the other jumpers had observed that jump and confirm what he said. The funny part of the story is he was an arborist.

ETA: From the time you pull the ripcord you fall about 300 feet before the chute opens. Your downward motion is slowed almost instantaneously, so the idiot had less than 400 feet to open his reserve if he had a problem, but he would probably hit the ground before he realized there was a problem.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@REP


One claimed that he pulled his ripcord at 700 feet above the ground.


The source I found for that information said that 700 feet was the minimum for an injury free landing using the reserve shoot on the typical sport parachute rig. The reserve shoot deploys faster than the main shoot. What your friends were probably doing is pulling the reserve chute.

The information that they had on the site was that for a standard sport rig, at terminal velocity for a human, the main shoot needs 1200 feet just to fully open, but the reserve chute will fully open in just 400 feet.

Replies:   REP
REP
Updated:

@Dominions Son

I don't know what chute he used. I do know that some main chutes will open quicker than others.

ETA: chute is an abbreviation for parachute. I'm not sure how shoot relates. :)

Replies:   Dominions Son  Not_a_ID
Dominions Son

@REP

I'm not sure how shoot relates. :)


Typing error. I was thinking chute, my fingers typed shoot.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

That sort of what I thought.

sejintenej

@awnlee jawking

South Korean computers can exchange up to a Gigabit of information in a second, but human beings can't even get out a whole word, let alone a meaningful sentence

Sure; I just wish US computer manufacturing companies could be as quick. I want to take my US branded laptop to Maryland where they have funny electricity (like 110v 60Hz instead of 240v 50Hz). I have had a long long chat with the manufacturers but the morons simply will not tell me if their transformer will adjust or whether my laptop will disappear in a loud fiery explosion.
After that another department from ** took their time in asking for details which I had already given. According to that company's record the four days for them to come back with an answer will become somewhere around two weeks. F***ing idiots.
(BTW it is not Apple - their transformers have a notice that they adjust automatically)

Rant over

awnlee jawking

@sejintenej

They may not know. The laptop was probably manufactured in China and most of the techies there have probably never seen the model destined for the UK market so they wouldn't have a clue.

The benefits of the global marketplace!

AJ

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

I just wish US computer manufacturing companies could be as quick. I want to take my US branded laptop to Maryland where they have funny electricity (like 110v 60Hz instead of 240v 50Hz).


The entire electric grid for North America runs at 60Hz (we couldn't interconnect the US grids with Canada otherwise).

However, for residential service, we mostly get 220V service, but the Full 220 volt is generally only used for large appliances (Fridge, Dryer, Electric stoves) the regular household outlets are 110V.

Zom
Updated:

@sejintenej


funny electricity (like 110v 60Hz instead of 240v 50Hz


Don't all laptop PSUs operate on 110-240V 50-60Hz? I can't remember the last time I saw one that didn't.

Dominions Son

The big problem is likely going to be different plug shapes.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

Don't all laptop PSUs operate on 110-240V 50-60Hz? I can't remember the last time I saw one that didn't.

I know stuff all about electricity, but isn't the principle that if the plugs fit then it's safe to use them?

I just bought a second laptop. I inadvertently tried to plug the old transformer-to-laptop cable into the new laptop. It didn't fit. That prevented me from using the wrong transformer with my new laptop. However, when I went to a different country with different power sockets, I was able to swap over the power-supply-to-transformer cables. It worked okay.

Replies:   sejintenej
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son

The big problem is likely going to be different plug shapes.

Adapters for different plug types are very cheap, but I wouldn't feel safe unless I knew I could buy something with a local plug that would fit into my existing equipment.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

Adapters for different plug types are very cheap, but I wouldn't feel safe unless I knew I could buy something with a local plug that would fit into my existing equipment.


You said your laptop is a US brand. Check with a local computer retailer when you get here. Some of them carry spare AC power adapters for laptops. They would all have US plugs and at least if the retailer carries the brand of laptop you have, you should be able to find one that will work.

Replies:   Ross at Play  Capt. Zapp
Not_a_ID

@REP

I don't know what chute he used. I do know that some main chutes will open quicker than others.

ETA: chute is an abbreviation for parachute. I'm not sure how shoot relates. :)


And here I thought you might be talking about an evil overlords trapdoor. Can't have victims escape their intended doom due to their ability to walk away.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

You said your laptop is a US brand.

You addressed that at me, but I think it's relevant to sejintenej. He's the one going to Maryland soon.

sejintenej

@Ross at Play

I know stuff all about electricity, but isn't the principle that if the plugs fit then it's safe to use them?

This and many other laptops here have a cable to a transformer and a cable from the transformer to the plug which fits into the wall. Mine would not fit a French or other EIU wall socket nor a US one. I have the adaptors which fit various foreign wall sockets (USA, France, Italy, Singapore, Australia etc.) on one side and my UK plug on the other side. The problem is the transformer and HP in the UK does not sell a transformer for USA power supplies and I will not be able to get to an appropriate shop in America.

By contrast Apple iPads have the transformer on the plug for the wall but they are designed and state that they handle UK, French and USA standard power supplies automatically.

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

If you stop at an electronics store that carries HP laptops when you get here you should be able to by a US charger.

You may also be able to order one in advance (from HP's US website) and arrange to have it shipped to wherever you will be staying in the US.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

You may also be able to order one in advance (from HP's US website) and arrange to have it shipped to wherever you will be staying in the US.

I'm not convinced - I have already spent hours on their US chatline trying to make them understand that England (Old) has a different mains electrical system to the USA. All the man needed to say was "I don't know but I will find out and let you know"!

I have come to the conclusion that they know the laptop would blow up but are too chicken to say it. (I did warn them in writing that if I didn't get an answer in a stated time I would use those words)

Dominions Son
Updated:

@sejintenej

1. It's not the laptop that would be at risk of blowing up. Using the UK charger on the US grid might risk damaging the battery (which is replaceable), but the biggest risk is is that the transformer in the UK charger would suffer a catastrophic failure.

2. Stop messing with their tech support* and just go on to the online store and find the right charger for the model laptop you have.

*The first line support people for the US aren't going to be trained to deal with international ac adapter/charger issues. They are just script monkeys, and you are going off their script. If you could get them to pass you off to second line support you might get to someone who actually knows what they are talking about.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Dominions Son

2. Stop messing with their tech support* and just go on to the online store and find the right charger for the model laptop you have.

I tried that to no avail. I think I will just have to take my iPad (which I find a pain to use)

REP

@sejintenej

I want to take my US branded laptop to Maryland where they have funny electricity (like 110v 60Hz instead of 240v 50Hz).


Many electronic devices will run on both 50 and 60 Hz power sources even though their rating shows just one of the two frequencies. A 240 Vac device can be run off almost any 110-to-240 up convertor.

The actual voltage and frequency of 110 Vac, 60 Hz power in the US can vary. Commercial power received by a locale can be either AC or DC at 2,000 KV or higher, and the AC frequency is may be more than 60 Hz. 400 Hz power is used for a variety of things because it is more efficient than 60 Hz. The local power company steps down/produces the long-distance transmission line power to the 110/117/120 Vac, 60 Hz power that US consumers receive. The different voltage levels are a result of the transformer connection used to step down the power companies voltage.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

I have come to the conclusion that they know the laptop would blow up but are too chicken to say it.


Simply buy a USA charger for that laptop from an on-line store. The voltage coming out the laptop side will be the same either way, but there may be a difference in how it deals with what comes in, so buy one designed to work with what comes in off the USA power service. Or you can wait until you arrive in the USA and buy a suitable charger from a local IT store.

Capt. Zapp
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Check with a local computer retailer when you get here


For that matter, just check the local WalMart. They usually have 'universal' or 'replacement' power supplies with adapters that fit most manufacturer's input. Just be sure to check your laptop's wattage requirements.

ETA: It is the powers supply that you would have a problem with. The voltages that come out of it is the same no matter what the input voltage/cycle is. So if the PS that came with your laptop can't handle 110/60, just pick one up a universal type when you get here.

Replies:   REP
Capt. Zapp

@sejintenej

I will not be able to get to an appropriate shop in America.


WalMart stores, which are practically EVERYWHERE in the US (even Maryland), carry 'universal replacement' laptop power supplies.

REP
Updated:

@Capt. Zapp

There are chargers that claim they are universal, but that isn't always true. Laptops draw different amounts of power and require specific voltages. If a "universal" charger is rated at too low of a power or provides the wrong voltage you can have problems running your laptop off of it.

It is best to buy one that is stated as compatible with your laptop.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Capt. Zapp

@REP

There are chargers that claim they are universal, but that isn't always true. Laptops draw different amounts of power and require specific voltages. If a "universal" charger is rated at too low of a power or provides the wrong voltage you can have problems running your laptop off of it.


Unless the laptop is pretty old, the voltages are usually the same across the board. What differs is the WATTAGE ,varying from 60 to 95 watts. That is why I said:

Just be sure to check your laptop's wattage requirements.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Capt. Zapp

I suspect that voltage is one of the things manufacturers set to lock a buyer into their product.

In the past, chargers were single voltage devices designed to work with a specific laptop. Today they can provide multiple values of voltage. One charger sold on Amazon provides 70w 15V 16V 18.5V 19V 19.5V 20V while a second provides 65W 20V 3.25A or 5.2V 2A.

Many people don't know the wattage and voltage requirements for their laptop or where to find that information. Some manufacturers will put one value on their packaging but not the other. The safest bet is a compatibility chart.

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