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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Prescriptivism and Language Change by Jonathon Owen #repost



The following is a repost from here.

Recently, John McIntyre posted a video in which he defended the unetymological use of decimate to the Baltimore Sun’s Facebook page. When he shared it to his own Facebook page, a lively discussion ensued, including this comment:
Putting aside all the straw men, the ad absurdums, the ad hominems and the just plain sillies, answer me two questions:
1. Why are we so determined that decimate, having once changed its meaning to a significant portion of the population, must be used to mean obliterate and must never be allowed to change again? 
2. Is your defence of the status quo on the word not at odds with your determination that it is a living language? 
3. If the word were to have been invented yesterday, do you really think “destroy” is the best meaning for it? 
…three questions!
Putting aside all the straw men in these questions themselves, let’s get at what he’s really asking, which is, “If decimate changed once before from ‘reduce by one-tenth’ to ‘reduce drastically’, why can’t it change again to the better, more etymological meaning?”

Read the rest of the blog post here.



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