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Horn, Horns

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Phrases.

My horn hath He exalted (1 Sam. ii. 10; Ps. lxxxix. 24, etc.). Mr. Buckingham says of a Tyrian lady, “She wore on her head a hollow silver horn, rearing itself upwards obliquely from the forehead. It was some four inches in diameter at the root, and pointed at its extremity. This peculiarity reminded me forcibly of the expression of the Psalmist, ‘Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck. All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exaltedʹ (Ps. lxxv. 5, 10).” Bruce found in Abyssinia the silver horns of warriors and distinguished men. In the reign of Henry V. the “horned head-gear” was introduced into England, and from the effigy of Beatrice, Countess of Arundel, at Arundel church, who is represented with two horns outspread to a great extent, we may infer that the length of the head-horn, like the length of the shoe-point in the reign of Henry VI., etc., marked the degree of rank. “To cut off” such horns would be to degrade; and to exalt or extend such horns would be to add honour and dignity to the wearer.

To draw in one’s horns. To retract, or mitigate, a pronounced opinion; to restrain pride. In French, “Rentrer les cornes.” The allusion is to the snail.

To put to the horn. To denounce as a rebel, or pronounce a person an outlaw, for not answering to a summons. In Scotland the messenger-at-arms goes to the Cross of Edinburgh and gives three blasts with a horn before he heralds the judgment of outlawry.

“A king’s messenger must give three blasts with his horn, by which the person is understood to be proclaimed rebel to the king for contempt of his authority.”—Erskine: Institutes, book ii. 5.

To wear the horns. To be a cuckold. In the rutting season, the stags associate with the fawns: one stag selects several females, who constitute his harem, till another stag comes who contests the prize with him. If beaten in the combat, he yields up his barem to the victor, and is without associates till he finds a stag feebler than himself, who is made to submit to similar terms. As stags are horned, and made cuckolds of by their fellows, the application is palpable. (See Cornette.)

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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