When you come to a fork in the road, take it out.
For whatever reason, somebody may have driven a salad fork into the blacktop. Or a pitchfork. A visual artist may have done it. Or a savage road killer.
A construction worker worker may have accidentally dropped a fork into the smoldering asphalt mix during his lunch break, whereupon the hapless piece of cutlery merged with the bituminous brew and thus ended up a fork in the road.
What else might a “fork in the road” conceivably be?
Picture your standard-issue dinner fork: it consists of a handle which, at one end, terminates into several pointed prongs called tines:
Now imagine an ant padding along the fork’s handle in a tinesbound direction until it reaches the point where the tines begin and the critter must select one of them if it wants to continue its peregrination without turning around—does it make sense to say the ant has now reached the fork?
Of course not. It hasn’t reached the fork. It’s been walking on the fork—to wit on its handle—all along. The ant reached the fork the moment it set foot on the handle, not the moment it arrived at the tines and had to make a choice.
Entering your dining room upon having traversed the kitchen to get there, you don’t say you’ve reached your house. You’re in your house.
And the only way to get to that which is commonly called a “fork in the road,” i.e., a point where the road splits into two or more, is via the part of the road that leads up to that point, i.e., the fork’s own handle, i.e., the fork itself.
When you come to a so-called “fork in the road,” what you actually come to is a point where you realize that the road you’re on is of the forked variety—that the road is a fork. (Not all roads are. Some roads never split.)
If, pars pro toto, you wish to refer as a “fork” only to the part of a fork where the tines originate, then what do you call the parts that lead up to and away from there respectively? Are you going to call the handle “handle,” the tines “tines,” and the part in between “fork”?
Then I might as well restrict my personal definition of “fork” to its handle. So then, when you say “reached a fork,” I’ll say “left the fork.”
In his poem The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost laments that “two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.” Whether it failed to fit his verse meter, or whether he understood that there’s really no such thing—at least not in the figurative sense—as coming to a fork in the road, Mr Frost notably spared us this troublesome expression. Sadly, though, those discussing the poem tend to sum it up as being about a man reaching a you-know-what.
Whatever the word may be for that part of a fork which resides between its handle and its tines, that’s what people reach when they come to a “fork in the road.”
The only forks in roads anyone has ever come to were actual hardware utensils that had been rammed into or buried in those roads, either accidentally or by design.