I happened to have encounter a root of an idiom which leads to the game "Four Square".

Now the according to the explanation by the Wiki,

A player is eliminated when a ball is bounced in a player's quadrant and the player is unable to touch the ball into another player's quadrant.

Does this sentence mean, if another 3 player bounce back the ball to "your area" (or "your zone"),and if you are unable to touch the ball and bounce back(meaning like strike back), is the player eliminated? (meaning, "off the court"?)

Since we in our country don't have a game like this, I appreciate your confirmation or denial.

  • The cited text is ambiguous. Either use an unambiguously "causative / intentional" verb, such as unable to throw the ball into another quadrant (to cause the ball to end up there), or change the preposition (unable to touch the ball in another quadrant). Which second version itself potentially carries further ambiguity, in that it's unclear whether we're talking about an action taking place at a time when the player and/or the ball are in another quadrant. Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 16:14
  • I didn't know the game myself, but I've just followed up the link. It's a "difficult" context in which to convey the intended sense (where pragmatically it's pretty obvious the intended meaning of touch is make contact with the moving ball, whilst either causing or not preventing the ball from ending up in one of the other players' quadrants). The implication being that the player hasn't necessarily "guided" the ball anywhere other than where it might have been heading anyway - it's just necessary that he should make some kind of contact. Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 17:44
  • ...Presumably there are other aspects of "the rules" that dictate when it's incumbent on that particular player to "touch" the ball. As opposed to simply realising that the ball is heading into another player's quadrant anyway, so he doesn't need to touch it to change its course. Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 17:47
  • ...I'm guessing it's like tennis. If a player can see that the ball is going to hit the floor somewhere within his own quadrant, he must "make contact with it" in such a way that the next place it lands is within another player's quadrant. And if the ball lands anywhere outside the four players' quadrants, whoever touched it last is "out". But as in tennis, you need to accurately foresee if a ball coming towards you will hit the floor in your quadrant (so you need to hit it away to avoid being eliminated yourself; otherwise let it go, so the previous "toucher" is "out"). Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 18:03

1 Answer 1


It is a four-player game, require no equipment other than the ball. To my understanding of the game, if you are one of the four players, your job is hit the ball on any of other three quadrants except yours (As in the diagram I sketched):

Four Squares

If you hit the ball on your quadrant, you will be eliminated from the game (until you get another chance) by the next player in the line and so on. You will get your chance back as the elimination continue as game goes on. Of cause, to hit the ball it first has to "touch" your quadrant (because another player hit it to your quadrant).

  • Thank you! I now understand the origin of the idiom Back to square one.Thanks(m_m),
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 21:02
  • I've seen the wikipedia page, but I'd be surprised if "Back to square one" came from that (fairly obscure) game. It is much more likely to come from "snakes and ladders" type dice games, in which you might be sent back to the starting square. Snakes and Ladders (and similar dice games) are much more common than "four square"
    – James K
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 21:46
  • I agree with James. Frankly, I was surprised myself to learn that from Kentaro Donates For Monica. By the way, M&M is my nickname in US. :-) Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 23:24
  • 1
    @JamesK Wiki says like this link [ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_square_one ] "Back to square one" is a phrase that means "to go back to the beginning, after a dead-end or failure". It likely stems from the game of Four Square where the loser goes back to square one.
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 6:01
  • Notwithstanding that uncited quote on wikipedia, four-square (an obscure game) is unlikely to be the source. Hopscotch, or a dice game (common games) is more likely.
    – James K
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 11:30

You must log in to answer this question.