English is an ever changing language. I heard a radio report about ten years
ago, that one of the major dictionaries had relented and decided to go with
public opinion and general usage and change their definition of 'decimated'
to mean 'reduce to one tenth' rather than 'reduce by 10 percent'. I,
personally found this abhorrent; it is nice to think you know the real
meaning of a word that others get wrong, gives one a sense of superiority.
However, the language is defined by its speakers and we have to put up with
the lowest common denominator system.
From: Tony Russell <>
To: RUSSELL DEAN WOODFORD <>
Date: Tuesday, 6 April 1999 14:07
Subject: Re: birding-aus Black naped Terns nesting.
>Hooray!, at last someone else who knows that decimation only reduces pops
>ten percent each time. Congrats Russ!
>I hate the way people ( I guess they are also the unwashed) misuse this
>At 11:45 6/04/99 +1000, you wrote:
>>> Well of course if the gulls did get one out of every ten chicks, then
>>> would have decimated them, literally. Decimation is not devastation,
>>> decimation is a rather trivial event in natural populations, unless it
>>> done repeatedly. All other factors remaining equal, decimation needs to
>>> occur 7 times to halve the population i.e. 100%, 90%, 81%, 72.9%, 65.6%,
>>> 59%, 53.1%, 47.8%.)
>>Not really related to the original message, but, given Philip Veerman's
>>interesting figures above, does anyone know if the gulls' 'success rate'
>>would increase from 10% as the tern population decreased?
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