Sometimes knowing certain things makes life a little less enjoyable. For instance, I learned last year that the word “decimate” doesn’t mean “to totally destroy.” Decimate means “to destroy 10% of something.” If you had ten hamburgers and you were given the order to decimate them, you would eat one of them. This comes from the Roman practice where they would “decimate the prisoners” as a punishment. This involved them killing a tenth of the prisoners to get the rest to fall in line.
This month I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness. It was a great movie. STID lived up to the first Star Trek movie (from 2009), and I was just as entertained. But in one scene in the movie, one character gives the command to “decimate them.” He didn’t mean to leave 90% of them intact. I just shook my head silently in the darkness of the theater.
The evolution of the English language continues apace.