Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Broadening a point

College English with Mr. Frank Palmer, who sports a Phi Beta Kappa key on his watch fob:

Mr. Palmer guided us through Beowulf and Macbeth, which I had studied in high school, The Mayor of Casterbridge, biography, essays, and modern American poetry. He required us to learn to spell Nietzsche, the name of a German philosopher I have never had occasion to use. Best of all, he assigned original compositions but instructed us never to use the expression “broaden our horizons” because, he said, “the horizon is the point at which the earth and sky meet, and it is impossible to broaden a point.” I never have, even though I am not sure I agree.

Beverly Cleary, My Own Two Feet: A Memoir (New York: William Morrow, 1995).
It’s smart to avoid “broaden our horizons” as a stale, trite expression. But isn’t the horizon better conceived as a line, at least a figurative one? Merriam-Webster: “the line where the earth seems to meet the sky.” The vanishing point, well, that’s a point.

I hope that this post has broadened all your horizons.

Related reading
All OCA Cleary posts (Pinboard)

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