For those who wonder why the misuse of “decimate” makes me so angry, imagine the current misconception of the word’s meaning transposed to it’s origins. I’m talking about a group of ten legionaries marching through hostile territory. Suddenly *thwack* one of them is felled by an arrow.
Brutus looks down at his fallen comrade and says “Oh no, we’ve been decimated.” And his mate Cassius looks at the one dead guy... let’s call him Flavius, I think it helps the story come alive when the characters have names. Not to mention I prefer to be on a first name basis with anyone living in my head.
Anyway, Cassius looks down at Flavius and says: “What, that’s it? One dead guy and we’re decimated? Really? I mean, the way everyone always goes on about being decimated I thought it would be way worse. Of course, it didn’t work out too well for Flavius but this decimated thing isn’t too bad.
“I used to lie awake at night worrying about us being decimated and now here we are, decimated, and nine out of ten of us are fine and dandy.”
And yes, I’m sure Roman legionaries used words like “dandy”.