Word origins

Discussing word origins with a buddy recently, I realized we might have found a solution for entrenched intransigence among our legislators.

Nowadays, the term "decimate" is often used to mean "obliterate." It's a corruption of the original meaning.

The Romans who punished cowardly legions with the decimation penalty used some common sense. Manpower was valuable, so they didn't "obliterate" the offending legion; cowards could still build aqueducts.

Lots were drawn; the losers -- one in 10 men -- were then executed by their fellow soldiers. ("Deci-" denoted "tenth" in Latin terms.) Ninety percent survived.

For us victims of perpetual politicking, a Congressional Decimation Policy might work better than term limits. A lot more exciting to watch than ordinary C-Span fare, and chances are good most of the remaining 90 percent wouldn't run for another term.

Jon Hauxwell,