Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: tithe.

tithe. “Tithe” (= a donation of 10% of one’s income to support charitable or religious activities) derives from Middle and Old English words for “tenth.” That percentage is commonly understood — e.g.: “After her conversion, it took her three years to start giving the 10 percent, or tithe. Now she would never consider not giving it.” Sara Miller Llana, “Wealth Gospel Propels Poor Guatemalans,” Christian Science Monitor, 17 Dec. 2007, World §, at 1. Given that familiarity, *”ten-percent tithe” is surely a redundancy — e.g.: “Two weeks ago, Fellowship Bible Church had its Commitment Sunday. Members were asked to pledge chunks of money beyond the 10-percent tithe [read ‘tithe’] every pastor hopes, in vain, that every congregant gives.” Bill Sanders, “Fellowship in Black and White,” Atlanta J.-Const., 28 Oct. 2007, at M1. In fact, though, in loose usage “tithe” now commonly denotes a donation of whatever size — e.g.: “Both figures are well shy of the biblical 10 percent tithe.” Chrissie Thompson, “Church Tithing Continues to Ebb; Only 2.56 Percent Given in 2004,” Wash. Times, 13 Oct. 2006, at A9. Language-Change Index — “tithe” to mean a donation of other than 10% of income: Stage 3. *Invariably inferior form. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Each phrase of a sentence, like an air or a recitative in music, should be so artfully compounded out of long and short, out of accented and unaccented, as to gratify the sensual ear. And of this the ear is the sole judge.” Robert Louis Stevenson, Learning to Write 209 (1888; repr. 1920).
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