Hirsch's Linguistic "Horizon"
If you have an adventurous mind, this is an opportunity for you to examine the English language in a very interesting way. At this very moment, think about your intellectual position in the center of a universe of English language. What you can "see" all around you are the words you know, and you can see them only as well as you can make out fine details in the words' historical etymologies (origins), their standard and slang denotative meanings, their commonplace connotative meanings, and their possibilities as vehicles for poetic usage such as metaphor, simile, paronomasia (puns), metonymy and synecdoche. That sounds like a lot, but consider further what lies behind the etymological facts for each word--their relationships to words in other languages, both those like Old and Middle English which passed words into English and those like French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, and Japanese, from which Modern English directly borrowed words. Suddenly, your linguistic "horizon" expands, but it also runs into frustrating regions of darkness as you look back in time beyond Chaucer's Middle English into the Germanic thicket of Old English, or as you look laterally from Shakespeare's or Congreve's use of "bastinado" to Spanish interrogation practices and English notions of Spanish culture as the "Other." Now that we've brought up literary authors, what about famous literary uses of standard English words? Does your linguistic horizon contain any of these special instances of usage in which an author charged a word with a newly minted combination of significances which it never has had again: "ambitious" (Shakespeare's Julius Casear), "trouthe" (Chaucer's Troilus), "love" (Malory's Morte Darthur), and "consciousness" (Woolf's "Modern Fiction" )? What would your own horizon's special usage list include?