Thursday, February 01, 2007

Words for Nerds--Decimate

Most people know that decimate means to kill or destroy in large numbers. We can thank our good friends the ancient Romans for this peppy little word.

From time to time, Roman military commanders would decimate their troops as a form of discipline. It was very effective, since it meant killing every tenth soldier in the offending body. Soldiers were chosen by lot and stoned or clubbed to death my members of their cohort. Talk about a team building exercise!

The punishment was used rarely--in extreme cases of mutiny or cowardice--but fear of decimation helped keep troops in line.

Further reading ...

Controversy swirls around Julius Caesar. Did he or did he not decimate a legion?

Scrambled Toast ... Word Sell

1 comment:

tanguy said...

I wonder if Nazis did not do the same during the second world war... actually this sounds to be a "pretty usual" army trick... this sounds familiar to me (maybe thanks to Hollywood)...