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The bridge is one of the most basic human concepts. A tiny child playing with sticks and puddles knows to build a bridge. Not surprisingly, the word bridge, as both noun and verb, has found its way into numerous idioms and expressions.

A bridge is a structure forming or carrying a road over a river, ravine, or the like in order to provide a passage between two points. The verb bridge is transitive.

Literally, one bridges rivers and gaps:

His first contract was to bridge the Monongahela River with an 8-span, 1500-foot-long bridge.

The first effort to bridge the gap [between Patna and Sonepur] was Rajendra Setu in 1959.

Figuratively, one bridges figurative gaps:

15 Ways to Bridge the Gap Between IT and Business

Can Academics Bridge the Gap Between the Academy and the Mainstream Reading Public?

Because bridges represent firm connections and safe passage, the noun bridge is used to denote anything that brings people of differing ideas and cultures together in a positive manner:

Turkish language a bridge to understanding

Service dogs provide a bridge for autistic children to connect with the world…

The noun bridge is also used to denote a transition or a cyber connection:

With the electronic forms server, our paperless e-forms solution creates a bridge between forms and an ECM/EDM system,

A Network Bridge is a hardware or a software [program] that connects two or more networks – maybe one a wired one and the other a wireless one – so that they can communicate with each other.

An expression commonly heard in planning sessions is “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” The meaning is that future problems must be dealt with as they arise. Sometimes it’s wise advice, but sometimes it’s an excuse for not planning for consequences.

Here are two more bridge idioms:

water under the bridge: something that has happened and cannot be changed.

For example, these headlines:

Cold War no longer water under the bridge as ships sail to Syria

Toledo May Say That ‘It’s Water Under the Bridge,’ but It’s Still Payback Time

like painting the Forth Bridge: an endless task.

The Forth Bridge, a cantilever railway bridge across the Firth of Forth in Scotland, is 8,296 feet long. The saying arose from the idea that by the time maintenance workers starting at one end of the bridge had finished painting it, the bridge would need repainting from the beginning. Here’s a recent use of the idiom:

Keeping one of Perthshire’s most spectacular mountains in top condition is like “painting the Forth Bridge”, the expert in charge of its care has said.

The most recent painting of the Forth Bridge took 400 men ten years to complete. This time they applied a triple layer of glass flake epoxy paint that is expected to last until about 2036.

The card game called Bridge has nothing to do with the kind that spans water. The game is thought to have originated in the Near East. The game’s name of Bridge may be an alteration of a Turkish word called out during play. This illustration in the OED shows the use of a strange word used by English-speaking bridge players in the 19th century:

The one declaring may, instead of declaring trumps, say ‘Biritch’, which means that the hands shall be played without trumps. J. Collinson Biritch 2  (1886).

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17 thoughts on “Bridges”

  1. Maeve, bridges are also built to carry railroad tracks, footpaths, and pipelines, and not just highways and roads.
    As for bridges that carry pipelines (only) I have seen those with my own eyes. I have walked and ridden bicycles across footbridges, and I have seen numerous railroad bridges.

  2. The Firth of Forth Bridge is a railroad bridge, and there have been railroad bridges across the Niagara River in the neighborhood of Niagara Falls that collapsed. There was a suspension bridge there, and there was a steel arch bridge called the Rainbow Bridge. Unfortunately, the engineers did not make allowances for the huge amounts of ice that can accumulate on bridges between New York State and Ontario during harsh winters. Hence, those bridges either collapsed into the river below, or they were removed once it was found out what sad shape they were in.

  3. A “network bridge” (not capitalized) is a useful subsystem for connecting an ethernet LAN with a token ring LAN, for example. Other network bridges connect one kind of a WAN with another kind of a WAN, where a WAN is a “wide-area network”. A LAN is a “local area network”.
    Other kinds of designations for networks have been proposed, such as MAN = “metropolitan area network”, but these have never caught on very much.

  4. The U.S. Coast Guard and other authorities require the Chesapeake Bay Bridge – Tunnel to be inspected once every five years.
    Here is what happens as a practical matter: A team of skilled inspectors starts at one end of the Bridge – Tunnel, and it takes them about five years to inspect the whole thing thoroughly. Of course, by then it is time for the inspectors to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

    Naturally, in the course of all of this, some men and women move on to other jobs, and some retire, and then new ones are hired and trained. The inspectors work in parallel with crews that repaint the metal parts of the Bridge – Tunnel, and crews that make necessary repairs, crews that change the light bulbs, etc. So, it is like a living community of people who work on that amazing thoroughfare.

  5. Gotta love that expression – “painting the Forth Bridge” – to make a point!

    Also, the term “bridge” is used in songwriting. Lots of pop tunes have a formula: verse chorus verse chorus BRIDGE chorus

    One definition says: Songwriters usually place the bridge right before the instrumental solo/break. The bridge is a pathway that leads the song to a new level with the aim of bringing it smoothly back to the chorus.

    Also, I saw this written by Kelly Clarkson: The bridge …….usually has a different tune or beat than the rest of the song. It has a different melody, lyrics, and chord progression from the verse or chorus. The bridge doesn’t have to rhyme either. It provides a break from the repetition of verse and chorus. The lyric often provides an insight or revealing moment.

  6. I agree with DAW that there are railroad bridges and there have been bridges over the Niagara River and some bridges have collapsed. I am sure there are other bridges over other things, too, and a really exhaustive list would probably be very helpful to really understand what a bridge is. Also other things about bridges:

    There is no bridge to the future, you have to wait.
    The Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t have a golden gate, or any gates really, but toll booths.
    On some bridges Turkish people can yell out “biritch” when they are really playing cards.
    The bridge to nowhere really went somewhere, but I’m not sure where.
    DuPont is a French name and pont is the French word for bridge.
    Jeff Bridges is an actor (not French or he might be Jeff DuPont).

    Also the saying, “Don’t burn your bridges” which is a reminder that fires are dangerous and something as big as a bridge on fire is very dangerous so you should just take apart and remove it.

  7. @venqax What is this, a forum for MAD magazine? You’re bright. You’re clever. OK…..but sometimes just too cute by half. Sarcasm is one of the most difficult meanings to convey by the written word as it usually depends on intonation, body language, and facial expression, let alone cultural nuance. Email etiquette suggests keeping it at a minimum because it often is the source of many a misunderstanding.

    I like that you added to the discussion by mentioning the old adage, “Don’t burn your bridges.” Good catch. However, imagine a foreign speaker trying to discern an actual meaning from your absurd commentary. Why can’t you just comment with a proper explanation? That is: Don’t destroy what led you to your destination because you may have to retreat by that same path. It’s good advice.

    I think the internet age punctuation symbols (the snarkmark and the sarcmark) were meant for use by people like you…….but then that would remove all plausible deniability for making such a remark, wouldn’t it? I’m sure you could have thought of something witty without going over-the-top. Try it next time.

  8. Roberta, I agree with you 100 percent. Venqax just makes MAD and snarky remarks, and insulting remarks, for no particluar reason.

    At least I try to expand on things that are brought up in the article, such as the fact that all (civil engineering) bridges are not highway bridges, and to add a little bit more about network bridges, and to add something about what an endless task it is to maintain the worlds largest and longest bridges, such as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge – Tunnel and the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. Also – to mention the additional stresses and wear & tear that are undergone by railroad bridges, and ones that exist in icy climates.

    There was no attempt to, and no need to, be witty about any of these things. I just tried to explain these things in a reasonably concise manner.
    Also notice how “network bridge” was mentioned in the first part of the first sentence of that part. If one does not care anything about network bridges, then one is free to skip the whole thing.

  9. So…Roberta…you took it as sarcastic…so if it it was, then it was successfully communicated, even without the benefits of intonation, body language, and facial expression, let alone cultural nuance. Not bad. And, for a shortcut of distinction, MAD magazine has pictures. OTOH, if it wasn’t sarcastic then, Well, I never!

    And please, tell me more about these punctuation marks.

    DAW: I was expanding on things too! Stuff about bridges. They are all true (except maybe the Turkish part. I don’t speak Turkish). And I agree with you again: “…there is no need to, be witty…” Well said, and without any superfluous wit at all to ruin it.

    I don’t see what’s so funny about a joke!
    L J Barton

  10. @DAW You’re not off the hook, my friend! Face it. You’re not “reasonably concise.” Your comments can be interesting, and obviously you have a lot of knowledge that someone with your maturity has gained, BUT it has gotten to where you take up far too much real estate and overpower this board with mindless ramblings and conspicuous fact spewing.

    Don’t you think one or two comments on a topic would be sufficient instead of all the off-topic things that end up here in a running sequence of 2, 3, 4, 5 posts, etc. per day! It’s not a matter of being free to skip over comments on remotely related subjects when common sense and internet etiquette say I shouldn’t have to find them here in the first place. It can be time consuming and exasperating(!) just trying to figure out which one (or two) of your comments I should spend my time reading that might be relevant to the topic and won’t waste my time.

    Why don’t you try limiting your participation to one or two well-thought out, on-topic comments per day…..and seriously, start your own blog. You probably have enough interesting ideas to keep something like that going for a while, but please stop trying to cram it all in here.

  11. @venqax Too cute by half – (1) someone who is so proud of their cleverness that they flaunt it, undermining their overall appeal; (2)
    to be too confident of your own intelligence in a way that annoys other people.

  12. At least you gave me 2 halves for too cuteness. Sorry I annoy you, though I don’t know why I would. I said the same thing you just did but less “directly”. I don’t know if direct comes off nicer.

  13. snark = snide remark = rude. The basic purpose of language is to make one’s self understood. The entertainment value is secondary. So, sometimes direct can be more effective than snark, regardless of which comes off as “nicer.” We’ll see. I’ve said enough already….for now, anyway.

  14. Yes, Roberta B., I agree. When someone has given a somewhat long-winded explanation, then there is no reason to follow that up with rudeness and sarcasm.

    My hands are clean because I was filling in some holes in the original article. We engineers just have a compelling need to fill in holes – that is how highways, bridges, telecommunication systems, and dictionaries get maintained.

    “Painting the Forth Bridge” is rather like “inspecting the Chesapeake Bay Bridge” in that both are tasks that take years to complete – roughly five years.

  15. I said I’d say no more, but jeez, Dale! You’re still not getting it (but I suspect, more likely, just being extremely obstinate).

    1. Stubborn: Determined not to agree with other people’s wishes or accept their suggestions.

    2. Refusing to change: Unwilling to change or give up something such as an idea or attitude.

    3. Difficult to control, get rid of, solve, or cure.

    It’s evident my language skills have failed me……………

  16. I’ve said enough already…

    I agree.

    It’s evident my language skills have failed me…

    And they are so gosh-darn direct, too. Go figure.

  17. Late addition here, had to see what was up after Roberta’s mention of this post in today’s post.
    @venqax…IMO you are very funny and I “got” your post. And I love MAD magazine, by the way. You didn’t annoy me at all. Skipping ahead to today’s post (that would be 06/23/2014, about blog etiquette), I have never had a problem with your posts being long-winded, spiraling off into your own universe etc.
    @Roberta…IMO your posts are always to the point and positive. Not sure why you would take issue with venqax, especially since it seems to me that you’re both on the same side, so to speak.
    @DAW: 6 of the 16 posts here (mine is the 17th) are yours, which is, as Roberta said, a lot of real estate for someone who doesn’t own the land. The first 4, in a row, were submitted in a span of less than 30 minutes. I don’t like to snap at people, and I too try to keep things peaceful so we can all enjoy the DWT experience, but if we were all in a discussion group in person, and I were the moderator, I would have to tell you to back off and give other people a chance to speak, and I would not allow you to go on ad infinitum and ad nauseam with your lists and examples. This web site is not an encyclopedia, and perhaps the time gaps between your posts were time you spent looking things up to dump here and try to impress. Frankly, most of us are not impressed, as you may or may not have realized by now. If you read today’s post (again that would be 06/23/2014), please see yourself in it and take it to heart so we can all enjoy this web site peacefully. The internet is big enough for everyone and if you have more to say that is over-the-top here, there is nothing to stop you from blogging at DAW.COM.

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