Word of the day, 16th March 2015

dilemma /daɪˈlɛmə/ (noun)

I had a bit of a dilemma this weekend.

When I use that expression, “I had a bit of a dilemma”, I mean that I had a difficult or perplexing situation or problem.

From experience, I believe this is generally how people use this word, dilemma: “a problem that seems incapable of a solution“.

For example, exclaiming “Oh, what a dilemma!” usually means something like “Oh, what a tricky situation to be in!“, or, “What a difficult decision to make!

However, more technically speaking, the use of dilemma in this way is considered by some people to be incorrect.  The word combines di-, a prefix meaning “two,” with lemma, meaning “a proposition, theme, or subject“, so its origin refers to a choice about two things: a situation needing a choice between two equal (especially equally undesirable) alternatives.

However, that being the case, I am unsure of the necessity for the expression “On the horns of a dilemma“, which also means being faced with the choice between two equally undesirable alternatives, or simply to be in an awkward situation.

I hope none of you face any dilemmas today 🙂

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