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To broaden one's horizons

Thanks to haggisthesecond. (See! I remembered!) -

I had hoped to be able to write up the origins of the phrase "to broaden one's horizons" but, disappointingly, my usual sources failed to even mention the phrase, let alone provide me with an explanation of where it came from. (OED, Brewer's, Bartlett's) The only context in which I'm used to hearing about multiple horizons is astronomy, but I can't think why an astronomer would require bigger horizons than the sky provides. What would "narrower horizons" be? The view out of a window, as opposed to being outdoors with no trees or hills?

Bartlett's at least had the phrase in a couple of permutations, the oldest of which was written by Baudelaire in the mid-nineteenth century:
" To be just, that is to say, to justify its existence, criticism should be partial, passionate and political, that is to say, written from an exclusive point of view, but a point of view that opens up the widest horizons."

haggisthesecond and I have concluded that, all other things being equal, shorter people have broader horizons than taller ones, since the higher up you are, the closer far things appear to be.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2003 08:57 am (UTC)
you interest me strangely! nothing to be found on the origin of the phrase? hmm! I'll check into it as well... were you using the full OED or the compact?
May. 1st, 2003 09:07 am (UTC)
the full OED or the compact

I was under the impression that the Compact OED was the full one, just photoreduced to an astonishingly-small point size. The one I've got is the second (1991) edition, which was fifty quid (reduced from about £230) in an OUP sale about a year ago. I haven't got any of the supplements, though.

The Shorter OED is, as far as I know, a two-volume edition and presumably contains about a tenth of the text contained in the full edition. But that's for wimps :)

May. 1st, 2003 09:10 am (UTC)
I'm sure you're right--I stand corrected! I only ever use the full OED at the British Library so am less familiar with the other versions. I only wish I had one of my very own...
May. 1st, 2003 09:26 am (UTC)
I only ever use the full OED at the British Library

Gosh - that's pretty serious reference. Although presumably for maximum points you'd have to consult the copy in the Bodleian Library :)

I only wish I had one of my very own...

I got mine in a sale a year or so ago, for the bargain price of £50 (plus postage) but a quick perusal of the OED site seems to indicate that it's back to its full price of £275, which is rather beyond my means. Probably worth checking occasionally to see if they put it on special offer again, though.

It's the only book I own which came with a magnifying glass and its own (72-page) `Users Guide', though...

May. 1st, 2003 10:01 am (UTC)
50 quid? a bargain, congrats! 275 is out of my price range as well... and the 20 volume set at 750 pounds is way, WAY out of my price range.
May. 1st, 2003 10:36 am (UTC)
Concise vs. Compact
The Compact OED is the one reproduced to minuteness. My parents have a copy. I have a copy of the Concise OED which generally tells me much of what I need to know, and gives the gist of all the etymologies as well. It, however, is handily desk-reference size. Happily I have access to the full OED via my university's online subscription. It's lousy for browsing, but as long as you're after something specific, it does just fine.
May. 1st, 2003 10:33 am (UTC)
Lost Horizons
I used the full OED, in its online incarnation, courtesy of my university's subscription. I checked under 'broaden', 'widen', and 'horizons', all to no avail.

If I make it to school this afternoon I might try more reference sources there.
May. 1st, 2003 09:00 am (UTC)
I've just had a look in my copy of the (Compact) OED and while I can't find a citation for the phrase ``to broaden one's horizons'' in any of its thousands of photoreduced pages, it seems that the word has an alternative (obsolete, figurative) meaning of `boundary'. So presumably to broaden one's horizons mean(t,s) to extend one's boundaries in a figurative sense - thus, to learn more or broaden one's views about a particular topic (or topics).

May. 1st, 2003 10:38 am (UTC)
Crossing boundaries
Hmm, that's helpful and plausible as an likely origin. Thank you.

I wonder if any other etymological dictionaries have already done the groundwork of tracking down early versions of the phrase. It seems like the sort of phrase that should have been around a few centuries already.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )