Crossroads

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A crossroads (the word rarely appears in singular) is a road junction, where two or more roads meet (there are three or more arms). Crossroads is also an alternate name for a hamlet located at such a junction. The term is often used metaphorically, as an abstraction of places or occasions where people meet. In British English it is specifically defined as being where two roads cross each other (there are exactly 4 arms). Unlike the terms road intersection and road junction, crossroads is used in a more figurative or poetic sense (similar to fork in the road).

Fork in the Road

A metaphor, based on a literal expression, for a deciding moment in life or history when a major choice of options is required. Compare "crossing the Rubicon".

Examples

There is a common motif in Russian folk tales, where a vityaz (Russian knight) comes to "a fork in the road" and sees a menhir with an inscription that reads:

"If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right, you will lose your head".

The phrase appears in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 21:19-23 NRSV).

"Mortal, mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to come; both of them shall issue from the same land. And make a signpost, make it for a fork in the road leading to a city; mark out the road for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites or to Judah and to Jerusalem the fortified. For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the fork in the two roads, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the teraphim, he inspects the liver. Into his right hand comes the lot for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to call out for slaughter, for raising the battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up ramps, to build siege towers. But to them it will seem like a false divination; they have sworn solemn oaths; but he brings their guilt to remembrance; bringing about their capture.

A fork in the road is mused upon by Robert Frost in his poem "The Road Not Taken", which begins, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."

Malapropist extraordinare Yogi Berra's saying "When you come to a fork in the road, take it" made the title of his book ISBN 0-7868-6775-2

Spirituality

In the folk magic of many cultures, the crossroads is a location "between the worlds" and, as such, a site where supernatural spirits can be contacted and paranormal events can take place. Symbolically, it can mean a locality where two realms touch and therefore represents liminality, a place literally "neither here nor there", "betwixt and between".