Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I thought the French décupler meant "decouple". But no, mes enfants, that's découpler we were thinking of. Here, at the latest, the gentle but ambitious American must face up to the difference between the French u and ou. Décupler means to multiply by ten, and derives from the Latin decuplus and decem. The OED even gives "decuplation" for use on home territory. But I don't think it will catch on, since it sounds like "decopulation" and the related "depopulation". Perhaps it's just as well if it doesn't catch on, since the meaning would soon start to sag, as happened with "decimate".

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