In In the Midst of Alarms (1894) by Robert Barr, a man, who had gone to camp in the woods of Canada, was talking about his longness to New York, then he persuaded himself that the camp is a good place, saying:

“Ah, well,” said Yates under his breath, and suddenly pulling himself together, “I mustn’t think of New York if I intend to stay here for a couple of weeks. I’ll be city-sick the first thing I know, and then I’ll make a break for the metropolis. This will never do. The air here is enchanting, it fills a man with new life. This is the spot for me, and I’ll stick to it till I’m right again. Hang New York! But I mustn’t think of Broadway or I’m done for.”

He came to the spot in the road where he could see the white side of the tent under the dark trees, and climbed up on the rail fence, sitting there for a few moments. The occasional call of a quail from a neighboring field was the only sound that broke the intense stillness. The warm smell of spring was in the air. The buds had but recently broken, and the woods, intensely green, had a look of newness and freshness that was comforting to the eye and grateful to the other senses. The world seemed to be but lately made. The young man breathed deeply of the vivifying air, and said: “No, there’s nothing the matter with this place, Dick. New York’s a fool to it.” Then, with a sigh, he added: “If I can stand it for two weeks. I wonder how the boys are getting on without me.”

Is "there’s nothing the matter with this place" is the main clause of "if", but they are separated by "New York’s a fool to it", so what does "a fool to it" mean here?

The possible meanings of "a fool to it"

  • Which question are you asking? "Where is the main clause …?", or "What does … mean?". Pick one, and move the other question to a separate posting. Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 1:02
  • 1
    @RayButterworth: It's fine to ask multiple questions about a single passage of text. Very often the answers end up being related to each other, so that asking them together saves work re-establishing context, and even if they are not, it is not reasonable to expect the OP to figure that out. Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


"New York's a fool to it" means New York is a foolish thing compared to this place. At the link you provided, Green's Dictionary of Slang gives "a stupid or foolish thing" as the slang meaning of fool that was prevalent at the turn of the twentieth century, right around when this story was written.

"If I can stand it for two weeks" is not related to the earlier clause. It stands by itself as a fragment that reflects Yates's conflicted thought process. It means some combination of these three things:

  • Let's see if I can stand it for two weeks.
  • I don't know if I can stand it for two weeks.
  • It will be good if I can stand it for two weeks.

The passage gives the back-and-forth of Yates's mind as he tries to persuade himself that he will have a good time in the camp. Immediately after an attempt to convince himself that the camp is superior to New York, he finds himself wondering about his ability to stand it for two weeks.


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