The Latest Tweets from Team NRO . . .
The former president of oil giant Elf Aquitaine is on trial in France. Here’s a brief story on what he had to say about donations to French political parties, including, allegedly the party once led by, ahem, the current president of France. Elf itself was taken over by TotalFina in 1999 making it a Franco-Belgian concern. In recent years TotalFinaElf has, famously, been very busy developing relationships with the (current) Iraqi regime. The likely plan? To secure pole position in the event that sanctions were lifted/collapsed, an arrangement that probably would not survive the departure of Saddam. Chirac, of course, is trying to help Saddam remain in power. Which is the other EU country (other than Germany) that has been most active in backing Chirac’s stance on Iraq? Belgium.
Link via Stephen Pollard.
Tv Guide’s Bad Timing
From Media Research Center:
Talk about bad timing. The headline over a story in the new TV
Guide arriving in homes this week: “At 68, Arnett is the Comeback
Kid in Iraq.” Apparently, TV Guide is a bit embarrassed by the
story penned by Max Robins since they have removed it from their
Web site. Robins admired Arnett’s “redemption” and raved that “for Arnett, the Iraq war is nothing short of a professional
Downed Navy F14 crew. (FNC)
Leaf Well Alone
Jonah, your Burke guy is, as you point out, quite right. For the same reason, the famous Disney movie should be written “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” despite the fact that the correct spelling is ‘dwarves’ (or at least it is in British English). ‘Decimate’ ? No need to wait for Derb. Do what the French don’t do – and stick to your guns. Your original instinct was quite correct.
Jonah: There is an extensive and fascinating discussion of points like this
in Steven Pinker’s book The Language Instinct. He goes into detail about
such things as why the plural of “Walkman” is “Walkmans” (not “Walkmen”),
and why the past tense of “to fly out” is “flied out” (not “flew out”). He
also retails that fine old joke about the lady who gets into a taxi in
Boston and asks the driver if he knows a place where she can get scrod.
“Jeez, that’s the first time I’ve heard it in the pluperfect subjunctive…”
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.’
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.”
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
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.
CNN reports no mothers or babies were there.
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