I am fond of a <hand> at cards myself, and it was almost as good as having one to watch the others.

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
“The surgeon, Dr. Somerton, was a fast, sporting young chap, and the other young officers would meet in his rooms of an evening and play cards. The surgery, where I used to make up my drugs, was next to his sitting-room, with a small window between us. Often, if I felt lonesome, I used to turn out the lamp in the surgery, and then, standing there, I could hear their talk and watch their play. I am fond of a hand at cards myself, and it was almost as good as having one to watch the others.

The Sign of the Four, novel

Hi. What does “hand” mean here?
Thank you.
 
  • kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It refers specifically to the set of cards in your hand when you are playing. Those are the cards dealt to you or that you have acquired during that particular round of the game. Most card games are played in multiple rounds, so you will have many different hands in the course of the game.

    More generally it refers to your participation in the game. If you say you'd like to play a hand, that means you would like to be a participant in the game. The use in the excerpt is more like this meaning.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The word order is a little confusing.

    I am fond of a hand at cards myself, and it was almost as good as having one to watch the others.

    I am fond of a hand at cards myself, and it was almost as good watching them (play their hands) as it would have been having one (a hand) myself.

    I enjoy playing cards myself, and it was almost as good watching them play as playing myself.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    More generally it refers to your participation in the game. If you say you'd like to play a hand, that means you would like to be a participant in the game. The use in the excerpt is more like this meaning.
    So does the word “one” refer to “a hand”?
    I am fond of a hand at[= a casual game of] cards myself, and it was almost as good as having one [=a game] to watch the others.

    As there are several "hands" in a game of cards, "a hand" is an example of the figure of speech called synecdoche (Synecdoche - Wikipedia):
    A synecdoche (/sɪˈnɛkdəki/[is a figure of speech] in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something or vice versa.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you all very much.
    I am fond of a hand at cards myself, and it was almost as good as having one to watch the others.
    By the way, does the dummy “it” in red refer to “to watch the others”, which is an extraposed subject of “was almost as good as having one”?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    By the way, does the dummy “it” in red refer to “to watch the others”, which is an extraposed subject of “was almost as good as having one”?
    I would not have expressed it like this. "It" refers to the situation just described, rather than any particular part of the description.
     
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