Antedating of "Split Infinitive"

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 28 00:30:48 UTC 2008

Well, that makes twice that I've encountered "carcanet". The first
time was Tolkien's (in "Eärendil", in LotR):

  More bright than light of diamond
  the fire upon her carcanet

I find this use of "captain" ("a captain jewel in the carcanet") at
least as interesting. And OED not only defines it but gives us the
source as well:

captain, a.
    Chief, principal, leading, head-.

... c1600 SHAKES. Sonn. lii, Like stones of worth..Or captain jewels
in the carcanet. ...

The def. as "head-" is a bonus.

Mark Mandel

On Sat, Dec 27, 2008 at 5:48 PM, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at> wrote:
> On Sat, Dec 27, 2008 at 4:02 PM, Benjamin Zimmer
> <bgzimmer at> wrote:
>> On Fri, Dec 26, 2008 at 8:36 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at> wrote:
>>> split infinitive (OED 1897)
>>> 1890 _Scots Observer_ 13 Sept. 439 (British Periodicals Collection)  The
>>> split infinitive ('to solemnly curse') is a captain jewel in the carcanet.
>> Would be curious to know the context for this ornamental metaphor.

The American Dialect Society -

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