Definitions

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A word occurring in the phrase to be at dulcarnon—that is, to be at a loss, to be uncertain what course to take. It is found in the following passage from Chaucer:
  • n. Dulcarnon represents the Arabic dhū 'l karnein, ‘lord of the two horns,’ a name applied to Alexander, either because he boasted himself the son of Jupiter Ammon, and therefore had his coins stamped with horned images, or, as some say, because he had in his power the eastern and western world, signified in the two horns. (Selden's Preface to Drayton's Polyolbion.) But the epithet was also applied to the 47th proposition of Euclid, in which the squares of the two sides of the right-angled triangle stand out something like two horns. This proposition was confounded by Chaucer with the 5th proposition, the famous pons asinorum. This, for some reason, was in the middle ages termed Elefuga, which is explained as meaning ‘flight of the miserable,’ or, as Chaucer renders it. ‘flemyng of wreches.’ Ele was supposed to be derived from elegi, meaning miserable, and this latter was itself derived from elegia, meaning sorrow. The passage from Chaucer was first thus explained in the London Athenœum, Sept. 23, 1871, p. 393.

Etymologies

Sorry, no etymologies found.

Examples

  • Mr. Jacobs offers up such nuggets as the fact that Edgar Allen Poe married his 13-year-old cousin; among other words, Mr. Shea defines "dulcarnon" -- it's a person in a dilemma.

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Comments

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  • Yes, reading all that was what made me opt for the succinct 'rather obscure'. I didn't feel up to unpicking what of it was relevant.

    February 23, 2009

  • Here is the interesting discussion of the word in the 19th-century Century Dictionary. It's worth quoting at length, I think. The dictionary provides the following citation from Chaucer:

    "I am, til God me bettere mynde sende,
    At dulcarnon, right at my wittes ende."
    Quod Pandarus, "Ye, nece, will ye here?
    Dulcarnon called is 'flemyng of wreches';
    It semeth hard, for wreches wol nought lere,
    For veray slouthe, or other wilful teches."
                                                          Troilus, iii. 931.

    The dictionary also explains the word's application to Alexander the Great:

    Dukarnon represents the Arabic dhu 'l karnein, 'lord of the two horns,' a name applied to Alexander, either because he boasted himself the son of Jupiter Ammon, and therefore had his coins stamped with horned images, or, as some say, because he had in his power the eastern and western world, signified in the two horns. (Selden's Preface to Drayton's Polyolbion.)

    And adds that:

    But the epithet was also applied to the 47th proposition of Euclid, in which the squares of the two sides of the right-angled triangle stand out something like two horns. This proposition was confounded by Chaucer with the 5th proposition, the famous pons asinorum. This, for some reason, was in the middle ages termed Elefuga, which is explained as meaning 'flight of the miserable,' or, as Chaucer renders it, 'flemyng of wreches.' Ele was supposed to be derived from elegi, meaning miserable, and this latter was itself derived from elegia, meaning sorrow. The passage from Chaucer was first thus explained in the London Athenaeum, Sept. 23, 1871, p. 393.

    February 23, 2009

  • A most interesting and rather obscure etymology. Arabic dhu l-qarnayn "master of the two horns", referring to the horns of a dilemma, but for some reason also an epithet of Alexander the Great.

    Dhu "master of" cannot occur on its own, only in the construct state with a following noun. The stem qarn- is often believed to be an ancient borrowing from Indo-European into Semitic; the -ayn is the genitive dual ending.

    February 23, 2009

  • dulcarnon; a person in dilemma

    February 23, 2009