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Lynch’s Torture: More Re: The Tipoff


What Kerry Sanders had heard, prior to the rescue. From earlier today on MSNBC/CNBC:

The information about an American POW still being alive is information that
had been flowing to the US Marines here on almost a daily basis. Even
yesterday, somebody came up to me and said, `You’re a journalist, you need
to know there’s an American soldier who’s being held in the hospital. She’s
being tortured. Please make sure that the people who are in charge of the US
military know that she’s alive.’

Pedantry Revisted


This happens a lot. I offer an opinion. I get lots of persuasive email telling me I’m wrong. I retract or modify my position. Then I get hit from all of the people who agree with me in the first place. I am officially out of the “decimate” business. I will await Derb’s definitive answer on this question. In the meantime I offer this reader’s reaction to my capitulation:

I’m with you on ‘Decimate’

If it weren’t for occasional fits of pedantry, we’d be lazily allowing our world-conquering language lose all its precision and fine shades of meaning.

Plus, I didn’t suffer through two years of college Latin to graciously suffer peoples’ blithe ignorance of the root meaning of words like this.

So fire away.

And regarding your anti-pedant correspondent:

“an army can be “annhilated” without being reduced to nothing”

Perhaps, but if the army didn’t at least come pretty darned close to being reduced to nothing, the word is being used incorrectly. Saying that a Republican Guard division that was reduced by 50% has been “annhilated” would be worse than calling it “decimated”. What in the heck is wrong with “halved”?


This Settles It


A reader writes:

“The answer to this question should be plain to you, an admirer of Burke: Leafs, because the team always has been known as such.”

Web Briefing: September 22, 2014

“They Lie Everyday”



Leafs Vs Leaves


From a reader:

Great point about the misused “decimate”.
Maybe you could solve another language conundrum. Should Toronto’s hockey team be called the Maple Leafs or the Maple Leaves? Big argument in the newsroom today about that. I favor the latter.

–Media Mole Guy

Al-Samouds Confirmed


Changing Sides


A former Iraqi soldier currently in the U.S. is being interviewed by David Asman on FNC right now. He wants to join our Marines. (His name is Mohammed Mohammed. Says his brother is a soldier in Baghdad and refuses to stop fighting for Saddam because he does not believe the U.S. is going to finish the regime. He also points out that it’s not just Saddam who needs to go, but all his cronies. It’s not Saddam who hurt me personally, he says, but Iraqi people, following his orders.

Can I At Least....


Be annoyed by the fact that the reporters who use “decimate” probably don’t even know that it ever meant “to kill one in ten”?

Throw a dog a bone.

Decimating Jonah’s Pedantry


From another reader:

You’ve probably gotten other responses to your Corner post on “decimated”, but I’ll chime in anyway.

Technically, the reporters are off by 500 or 600 percent because their number is 5 or 6 times too low. Decimate, however, despite being from the Latin decimatus for taking the tenth part of, can also just mean to considerably destroy.

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) lists the following as the third definition of decimate:

3. To destroy a considerable part of; as, to decimate an army in battle; to decimate a people by disease.

From An Undisclosed Location


I’m working on my laptop from a clever coffee place in Washington DC. The joys of wireless baby! I’d tell you where I am, but who knows what the Saudi Embassy might do with that info? If anybody knows free (and I don’t mean free to steal) wireless connections in DC/VA/MD please lemme know. This is so cool.

That Hospital


CNN reports no mothers or babies were there.

Re Decimate


A reader scolds:

Jonah, I love to read your stuff, but stay funny, not pedantic: in the 16 centuries since the Romans used its cognate in the way you prescribe, “decimate” has also come to mean “destruction” generally. Just as a mission can be “executed” without dying; as an army can be “annhilated” without being reduced to nothing; as an army can be “beaten” without having sticks pounded on them; etc., etc., something can be decimated by 50%.

Bbc Arab Press Roundup: Iraqi Tactics Impress Arab Press


Iraqi men, women and children are the weapons of mass destruction which George Bush and Tony Blair and their war generals are searching out to destroy.

Al-Khalij – United Arab Emirates

Love Someone Serving The U.S. in The Military?


Another Civilian Mystery


Belated Reax


Tom Fleming on Bob Novak on his fellow?/non-fellow? paleos reminds me of, I think, Karl Krause’s line about intra-left-wing political feuds: “Tiny insects devouring each other in drops of water.”



My peeve for the day is the misuse of this word by reporters. Properly speaking, “decimate” means to kill one in ten. When reporters says we’ve “decimated” Republican Guard units, they’re off by 40 or 50 percent.



I wonder if all the snickers and sneers from those who mocked the idea that American troops would be welcomed as liberators will be erased by the footage on CNN right now of the spontaneous parade in the Americans’ honor in Najaf. Actially I don’t wonder. The snickers and sneers will stay. But it’s nice to imagine.



Largest dam on the Euphrates taken by special ops.

Speaking Gigs


I will be speaking at Williams College on April 9 and at Metropolitan State College in Denver on April 14 (around 1:00 PM). I believe both events are open to the public. But I have no further detaills. There will be no nudity — by me — at either event.


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