For Fore Four

Homonyms are my idea of fun.   And for, fore, four are I believe some of the most wonderfully confusing homonyms in the English language.    I know that I said that I really preferred three unrelated terms for this little blog exercise but this suggestion from Steve Hall was just too much fun to pass up.   Steve is a 55 year old Brit who has lived in Spain for 10+ years.   He is a frustrated linguist/cartographer and cyclist who is on a one-man mission to teach expats Spanish.

The shortest of these three words, for,  is one of the most complex and confusing words in English.   Dictionary.com  lists no less than thirty-four different definitions of the word for.    It really is an almost infinitely useful preposition,  and a word I suspect foreign learners of English must really struggle with.   I must ask Steve if there is an equivalent word in Spanish.   Though perhaps there are thirty or more words in Spanish that mean the same things as for.

With only eleven different definitions listed,  fore seems to me a somewhat less confusing word.   It mostly means first or at the front  (and in several of the dictionary’s nautical meanings,  that is still more or less what it means).   In golf it means ‘watch out you don’t get hit with a ball’.

The numeral four has never been a particularly special or lucky number for me.  (My lucky number is 13,  which as it happens was the number next to my name in my 4th grade teacher’s grade book.   In the annual English essay contest,  we were instructed to put only our number at the top of our essays– rather than our names.   I won first place and discovered that I really loved writing essays.    File this under 1 thing you didn’t know about me.)    What the spelled out number four most brings to mind for me is John Irving’s novel The Hotel New Hampshire.    After Win Berry goes through three seeing eye dogs,  he and his family name the fourth one simply  “Four”.      I first read that novel my senior year in high school.   I still have my original hard cover copy on my book shelf,  inscribed by my late Aunt Julia (who was an amateur artist and calligrapher)  Alan L Jobe   Ex Libris.   I do like my Android tablet that I use as an eReader very much,  but I know I will always cherish some of my printed books.   And even if Aunt Julia were still around,  I think it would make me just a little bit sad that she could never inscribe my ownership of any of my favorite eBooks.

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8 comments on “For Fore Four

  1. I’m glad to see you bring John Irving to the fore. I’m currently reading his latest offering, In One Person. It’s fascinating and a great reminder of why I have always had a fondness for him. It’s been at least four years since I read anything of his, but he always rises to mind when I think of my favorite authors. 😉

  2. How many definitions do you think (set) has? 🙂 Maybe about 424! 🙂 Only now I’m beginning to understand why my students don’t want to learn English:) Here I thought it was my tie.

  3. Great blog on homonyms. On the subject of teaching, it’s very hard to teach homonyms, especially to beginners. To appreciate them, you have to have a large experience in the language, not only literature, but children’s rhymes, slang, dirty jokes, and so on. Eg, “il y a du monde au balcon” can mean “there are a lot of people on the balcony”, but also “that woman has large breasts.”

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