Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Decimate and Deprecate

From what I have seen, a lot of people have no idea of what these two words mean. I have even seen some situations where someone has got the two words mixed up and has used one where the other would make slightly more sense (but not much since neither is what they are really trying to say).

Decimate has a very specific meaning – it means to kill or destroy exactly one in every ten. The Romans used to use this as an extreme punishment when one of their legions stuffed up big time. The legion would be decimated with one in ten of the soldiers being killed as an example to the other 90%. When something is decimated it means that 90% of it still exists. Many people use it where what they are saying implies that they really meant obliterated – which means approximately ten times as much damage and death as decimated implies.

I am not exactly sure what people assume that deprecated means. A lot of people writing web pages continue to use deprecated code saying that it is only deprecated. In fact so much deprecated code is still being used in web pages that the HTML standards have decide to revert to a lesser meaning. Instead of dropping the deprecated tags from the next version of HTML they are doing away with the concept of deprecated HTML and reverting to a lesser term of obsolete instead. Obsolete implies that the tag has been replaced and need no longer be used but will continue to be supported by browsers whereas deprecated means that it has been replaced and also that it is about to be completely dropped and no longer supported at all. Obsolete is a far lesser term than deprecated but the way most people treat the word deprecated you’d think their meanings were the other way around.

The other word I have seen some people get mixed up with these two is ‘depreciated’ which of course is something entirely different again.

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