Odd Language #200: Initial Reading Declined

“There would be no more overpopulation; the hordes in East Asia would decline to adjust themselves to the food supply.” — Misbegotten Missionary by Robert A. Heinlein

The issue: When I first read this sentence, it seemed to mean the opposite of what it should. Then I caught that there were two meanings of “decline” to consider. It was meant in the sense of “to go down in number”; I had initially read it as in the sense of “deciding against something”.