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What does here be dragons mean in the example below?

WARNING Here be dragons. Relative source binding can not only encourage bad application practices, such as binding to things defined in codebehind instead of following a pattern such as ViewModel, but also be hard to debug, especially when you get into changes to DataContext set by external consumers of your user control.

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Hic sunt dracones –  Nick T Aug 7 '11 at 20:22
@Bog: and? Wouldn't you want the first google entry to be this very page? –  Andreas Bonini Aug 8 '11 at 9:54
What grammar 'rule' does this sentence use? And is it equal with 'Here might be dragons?' –  naxa Nov 9 '12 at 17:55
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4 Answers 4

up vote 47 down vote accepted

"Here be Dragons" was a phrase frequently used in the 1700s and earlier by cartographers (map makers) on faraway, uncharted corners of the map. It was meant to warn people away from dangerous areas where sea monsters were believed to exist. It's now used metaphorically to warn people away from unexplored areas or untried actions. There are no actual dragons, but it is still dangerous.

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I'd like to see some evidence that this text was "frequently" put on maps in the 1700s. –  FumbleFingers Aug 7 '11 at 17:09
@FumbleFingers. It's one of those things that "everyone knows", which turns out to be not true.If I remember correctly, it only ever appeared on one map. The answer is, however, correct, as this is the legend the question is referring to. –  TRiG Aug 7 '11 at 17:43
@Robusto - it isn't contentious that old maps used to be embellished, just not with these specific words. –  Neil Coffey Aug 7 '11 at 20:18
+1 for "There are no actual dragons" –  Sverre Rabbelier Aug 7 '11 at 23:28
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It's a jocular archaism. I wouldn't like to say it was ever really spoken in earnest, by a speaker who genuinely feared he was entering land so little known it might contain dragons.

It may have got a bit of extra currency from the tendency for old maps to be "embellished" with drawings. Unexplored areas (land, sea, or unknown) would often be decorated with serpents, and perhaps the legend Here be dragons.

Today it's just a jokey way of saying "There are/may be some really scary things here!". In OP's context, really difficult technical problems.

LATER: Having consulted Wikipedia on this one, I should say the only relevant ancient usage known is the Hunt-Lenox Globe (early 1500s), with the Latin HC SVNT DRACONES (hic sunt dracones, here are dragons) on the eastern coast of Asia.

The earliest reference I can find is this from 1892 claiming cartographers from the 1300s used the phrase, but this NGram strongly suggests the myth didn't become widespread until quite recently.

But it's a nice legend, so I'll keep my "perhaps" at the end of the second paragraph.

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+1 for the second paragraph. –  Dan Aug 8 '11 at 12:29
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“Here be dragons” is used to denote dangerous or unexplored territories (see on Wikipedia).

I assume that in your case, it means:

WARNING. If you're skiing out of bounds, you'll be on your own, you may encounter problems and it will be hard to come back.

where “out of bounds” means “not following patterns” and “come back” means “debug”.

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While you're explaining the phrases in your alternative version, you might also mention that by "skiing out of bounds", you mean "using relative source binding". But it's not a usage I've heard before (though I have heard people say "skiing off-piste" metaphorically). –  FumbleFingers Aug 7 '11 at 18:34
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Here is the Wikipedia page for Here be dragons. If it is somehow incorrect or incomplete, you are welcome to become an editor and fix the content. It gives a pretty good summary of the phrase's history and usage.

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How would he manage to improve the Wikipedia page not knowing the meaning of the sentence? –  nico Aug 7 '11 at 19:39
I think your answer could be improved by including some information from the site. –  simchona Aug 7 '11 at 20:53
As per the comments above, this isn't really an "answer", though I think with that link it would have been an excellent comment against OP's question. If you're not already aware, you can put a link in a comment. Just put the description in (round brackets), immediately followed by the link itself in [square brackets]. Anyway, spurred on by this post, I just googled "here be dragons", and that Wikipedia link was the top result. I won't vote to close, but I'll downvote the question as not showing much effort before asking here. –  FumbleFingers Aug 8 '11 at 0:43
@FumbleFingers - Thank you for advising me that I got caught in a common forum n00b error: when I posted, my answer targeted a comment rather than the original question. Error acknowledged! –  John Tobler Aug 8 '11 at 16:02
I'm glad you see it that way. After mulling over this discussion I slightly regret downvoting the question, because it has turned out to be "quite interesting". But your link really would have been perfect as the first comment, since that would have pretty much forced any other answerers to try to "add value" to what's already on the Wikipedia page. –  FumbleFingers Aug 8 '11 at 16:31
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