Learn Australian English in this expression episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I teach you to use the expression WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE like a native speaker and also teach you about the history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
AE 440 – Expression: Water Under the Bridge
The great job is done and the 7 years of “Thou shalt not trespass” to the public are relegated into the limbo of forgotten things. The bridge belongs to the man in the street and how he has taken possession of it. Posterity can never experience the thrill that we have known in watching it rise up slowly but surely, until today, it flung wide its gates.
G ‘day you mob! How’s it going? And welcome to this episode of Aussie English.
So, this is the Aussie English Podcast, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone wanting to improve their English, and specifically Australian English. It’s aimed at helping you improve your pronunciation, your listening comprehension, your spoken English, and also give you a bit more knowledge when it comes to things like Australian slang, culture, food, all that good stuff. So, welcome to the podcast episode, guys.
Today, is an expiration episode and the expression is ‘water under the bridge’, which we’ll get into shortly.
So, quickly, that scene at the start there was from a video from a film covering the opening, the inauguration, of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the year 1932. So, there’ll be a link in the transcript if you would like to watch that entire video. It’s about, what, 80, 90 years old now? And it’s pretty cool seeing all these people wearing different clothing like hats and suits that all come from back in that period, not to mention the fact that the bridge is out in open space. You go there today in Sydney, in the CBD, and there’s buildings everywhere. So, it’s a very cool video to watch.
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Anyway, guys, let’s get into today’s episode. So, the expression is ‘water under the bridge’, hence why I’m talking about the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I thought that linked in nicely. And I also found a joke, a joke, about bridges. Okay. So, here’s the joke.
So, a man goes to see his doctor and he says to the Doctor, “Doctor! Doctor! I think I’m a bridge! I think I’m a bridge!”, and the doctor asks, “What’s come over you? Why do you think you’re a bridge? What’s come over you?”. And the man replies, “Three cars, a van, and a motorbike!”.
Woo! That’s killer. Alright. So, basically, the joke there is with the phrasal verb ‘to come over someone’. Okay? So, this has multiple meanings. The first one there is the literal version of ‘to come over someone’, like to go over someone, to go over the top of someone, i.e. getting run over by a car, for example. So, “What’s come over you?”. “Three cars, a van, and a motorbike.”, as would come over a bridge.
But, ‘to come over something’, as well, can mean to influence someone suddenly to behave a certain way. So, you could imagine that if the dog that you have in your house starts barking like crazy one night, you might say to it, “What’s come over you, mate? Why are you behaving like this? Why are you suddenly doing this? What’s come over you?”. So, that’s the joke.
So, today’s expression, guys, is ‘water under the bridge’. ‘Water under the bridge’. For something to be ‘water under the bridge’.
So, this was suggested by Kel in the Aussie English Classroom private Facebook group. This is where we all get together, all the members of the classroom, the Aussie English Classroom, and we chat in there, we do live videos, we work on our spoken English, and each week, I try to suggest expressions as well as get students’ expressions, and everyone votes on them for this episode.
So, it was a great suggestion Kel. ‘Water under the bridge’. So, great suggestion and it’s an English expression that’s used everywhere. This is not specific to Australia.
So, let’s go through and define the words in the expression ‘water under the bridge’. Okay?
So, ‘water’. I’m sure you guys know what ‘water’ is, a colourless transparent odourless liquid, which forms things like seas, lakes, rivers, rain, and it’s the basis for fluids used in living organisms. Right? You are probably 70 to 80 percent water, and you drink water. The sea is full of water. I’m sure you know what ‘water’ is.
The next word here is a preposition or a particle, ‘under’, right? ‘Under’. To be ‘under’ something that is to be beneath something. It’s the opposite of being above something or on top of something. If you are situated below something, if you are beneath something, you are under something. You know, animals live underground, animals like moles or worms or ants. They live underground.
The last word here is a noun, ‘a bridge’, right? ‘A bridge’. ‘A bridge’ is a structure built to carry a road or a path or a railway across river, road, valley, canyon, or any other obstacle. Okay? ‘A bridge’. So, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a bridge. And we have a huge one in Melbourne called the West Gate Bridge. And these usually cross things like rivers or bays or roads, as we said before.
Alright. So. they’re the words.
Expression Definition & Origin:
What does the expression mean, though? When we put these words together and we use this expression ‘water under the bridge’, what on earth does that mean? Water under the bridge. Yeah, okay. So, there’s water and it’s under the bridge, what does that mean?
So, literally, ‘water under the bridge’ is exactly that. It is water that is beneath a bridge or water that is flowing below a bridge. It is going under a bridge. So, it’s allowed to flow beneath the bridge and it’s not obstructed by anything. It can freely move underneath a bridge.
But figuratively, when we say that something’s ‘water under a bridge’, it means that whatever’s happened in the past can’t be undone, it can’t be changed, you can’t go back in time and change things, so don’t worry about it. Let’s move on with things. It’s not a big deal. The past is in the past. What’s done is done. What’s happened is unchangeable. Let’s forget about it. It’s a water under the bridge, right? So, imagine it like water passing by under the bridge and it’s gone. It’s done. It’s finished. There’s nothing you can do about it so it’s not a big deal.
And you also hear this used like expressions, ‘what’s done is done’ or ‘the past is in the past’ or simply ‘the past’s the past’.
So, where did this expression originate from? The earliest example I could find was from 1934. So, a song was entitled ‘Water under the bridge’ and it was written by Paul Francis Webster, Lou Pollock, and it was performed by Fred Waring, and this was all the way back in the 1930s, and the first line of the chorus begins as, “We kissed and love flowed through my heart like water under the bridge.”. So, it’s probably not being used exactly as we use it today, but there it is ‘water under the bridge’.
Most recently too, as a quick mention, artists like Adele and Olivia Newton-John actually have songs called ‘Water under the bridge’. So, check those out on YouTube.
So, as usual, let’s go through three examples of how I would use this expression. If something’s water under the bridge, what does that mean? How would I use this in day to day life?
Okay, so example number one. Imagine that I’m walking through the city and I stumble into an old friend from primary school. So, I bump into an old friend from school. It was by chance. I didn’t expect to see them. So, I haven’t seen them in like 12 years and we have a bit of a chat after we’ve recognised each other, and maybe one of us realises that the other one was a bit of a brat, a bit of a rascal, in school and maybe bullied me or I bullied them, maybe we teased each other, we paid each other out a lot as kids. If one of us apologises for that and says, “You know what, I was a real naughty kid, I was a bit of a brat, I was a rascal when I was in primary school and I was nasty. Sorry about that. I really apologise for being horrible.”. The other person might say, “Man, that was 12 years ago. Nothing to apologise about. No worries. It was so long ago, it’s a water under the bridge.”. So, it’s in the past it’s unchangeable. It’s so long ago, forget about it. It’s water under the bridge.
Example number two. So, in this example imagine, you know, countries in Europe, in the Americas, in Asia, were all fighting each other in World War II, right? All of these countries were at each other’s throats. They were trying to kill each other. They were fighting for power. People hated each other. There was racism, genocide, rape, murder, torture, the deaths of millions of people. You guys will know about what happened in the 20th century there, in World War II. But today, many of these countries consider themselves allies. They consider themselves friends. They have good relations. They… their relations have improved since that time. So, all of that stuff that happened was in the past. What’s done is done, and today, it’s water under the bridge, right? So, even though England and Germany were on opposite sides in World War II, they’re now good allies in Europe. So, what’s done is done. What’s in the past is in the past. It’s all water under the bridge.
Example Number Three. Okay, so here’s a personal anecdote from me. When I was growing up, my sister and I really didn’t get along. We used to fight each other all the time. We’d be yelling at each other, teasing each other. Maybe my sister would run to my mum and dad and, you know, complain about me, she’d dob on me, or tell on me for something. Maybe I’d pull her hair or steal her toys. And so, we grew up really disliking each other. However today, we get along like a house on fire. We are pretty close, we hang out, we chat, we see each other quite a bit. So, everything that has happened in the past is in the past. What’s done is done. It’s unchangeable, but it’s all water under the bridge. We have a really good relationship now. We’re on good terms. So, if I pulled her aside and apologised to her, she would probably say to me, “Pete, don’t worry about it. It’s so long ago, it’s water under the bridge.”.
Alright guys, so by now, I hope you understand the expression ‘water under the bridge’. Remember, we used this to talk about anything that has happened in the past, a long time ago, and it’s unchangeable. You can’t undo it and you shouldn’t worry about it. So, what’s done is done and what’s in the past is in the past. It’s water under the bridge.
So, let’s do a listen and repeat exercise as usual, guys. This is your chance to practice your pronunciation, to try and focus on intonation and rhythm and connected speech, and if you really want to try and nail your Australian accent, it’s your chance to copy me as I speak. Otherwise, just say these words after me. Okay? So, listen then repeat after me. Let’s go.
Listen & Repeat:
It’s water under
It’s water under the
It’s water under the bridge x 5
Good job. So, now let’s just do a little bit more and I want you to imagine a situation where you want to say to someone, if they’ve apologised to you, that, “It’s not a problem, it’s water under the bridge”. But let’s use some common Australian English phrases. Okay? So, listen and repeat after me, guys. And this is how you would say, “Not to worry. It’s not a problem. It’s water under the bridge.”. So, listen and repeat.
All good. It’s water under the bridge.
Don’t worry. It’s water under the bridge.
No stress. It’s water under the bridge.
No dramas. It’s water under the bridge.
She’ll be right. It’s water under the bridge.
Great job, and I will mention here, if you want to make it even more informal and very, very friendly, you can add ‘mate’ at either end of either of those sentences. So, you could say “She’ll be right, mate. It’s water under the bridge.”, or you could say “She’ll be right. It’s water under the bridge, mate.”.
So, we use ‘mate’ in Australia a lot to really sort of emphasise the friendliness of discussions. Now, we might avoid using this on women, and some women may not decide to use this when they’re talking, in fact, most women probably won’t say ‘mate’, but if you’re a guy listening to this and you’re talking to other guys, especially Australians, don’t be afraid to say ‘mate’. It’ll really come across like you’re being incredibly friendly. Okay? So, there you go.
Alright, guys, remember, if you want to get access to all the bonus content that will break this exercise down, this pronunciation exercise and go through things like connected speech and rhythm, intonation, then sign up to the Aussie English Classroom. Each week at the moment, I am releasing videos that take you through step by step all the aspects of connected speech and pronunciation and will better equip you to sound like an Australian English speaker, and you can sign up there and try it for one dollar for 30 days at TheAussieEnglishClassroom.com.
So, let’s get into the Aussie English fact for today, guys, and then we will finish up.
So, the Aussie fact. Have you guessed what it’s about? It’s about the Sydney Harbour Bridge. So, I want to talk about that and I also want to talk about an interesting incident that occurred at the opening of the bridge in 1932. Alright so, let’s get into it.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is probably in the top three icons or iconic symbols synonymous with Australia. So, you would also know, obviously, the Sydney Opera House and Uluru. Those three things tend to be synonymous symbols with Australia. When you see them, you know you’re thinking about Australia at the same time. So, anyone who knows about Australia will definitely recognise the bridge. And let’s go through some facts about the bridge.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is steel, it’s made of steel, and it is a steel through arch bridge. So, it’s a… it’s made of steel, it’s in the shape of an arch, and you drive through the middle of it. It carries rail, vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney CBD, and the Central Business District, and the North Shore. So, it crosses the bay there.
The bridge is nicknamed the ‘Coathanger’, because of its arch-based design. And ‘a coathanger’ is something that you would hang a coat or any other item of clothing on in a wardrobe.
So, it’s the sixth longest-spanning arch bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge measuring about 134 metres from the very top all the way down to the water level.
Its construction began nearly 100 years ago on the 28th of July in 1923. So, I guess 95 years ago. And it ended nine years later on the 19th of January in 1932. So, talk about a bridge that took a long time to build. Hey guys? And the gates were open to the general public about two months after its construction was complete.
So, the bridge was formally opened on Saturday on the 19th of March in 1932. And following the speeches being given at that event, Jack Lang, who was the Premier of New South Wales at the time, he was about to cut the ribbon and declare the bridge open when a man in military uniform suddenly rode up on a horse brandishing a sword, a sabre, and he slashed the ribbon in two and declared that the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in the name of the people of New South Wales before the official ceremony could begin.
So, this man was promptly swarmed by security and he was pulled from his horse, arrested, and escorted from the scene. The ribbon was hurriedly retired and Lang performed the official opening ceremony and the bridge was inaugurated, and the inauguration was followed by a 21-gun salute, as in, 21 guns were fired into the air as a celebration, and the RAAF or ‘RAAF’ the Royal Australian Air Force did a flypast, where all of these planes flew past above the bridge.
So, the intruder on horseback was later identified as Francis De Groot who was ultimately convicted of offensive behaviour and he was fined five pounds after a psychiatric test proved he was sane, but this verdict was reversed on appeal. And strangely enough, de Groot actually successfully sued the Commissioner of Police for wrongful arrest and was awarded an undisclosed out of court settlement. So, he might have even got more money than was the fine he was originally meant to pay, the five pounds, right?
So, De Groot was actually a member of a right-wing paramilitary group called the New Guard who were opposed to Lang’s leftist policies and resentful of the fact that a member of the Royal Family hadn’t been asked to open the bridge. So, these guys were obviously royalists, very passionate about the Royal Family, and wanted them to be at the forefront of this inauguration.
So, De Groot was not a member of the regular army, but he’d worn this uniform and it allowed him to blend in with the rest of the cavalry. So, that’s how he snuck in to this event.
After the official ceremonies, the public was allowed to walk across the bridge and there were somewhere between 300,000 and 1,000,000 people, 1,000,000 people, who took part in the opening festivities. So, that’s ridiculous, that’s crazy, because Sydney’s population at the time was only 1,250,000. So, if we assume that it was 1,000,000 people, that’s almost like 80 percent of the people in Sydney crossing it. And even if it was only 300,000, that’s still something like 20 percent. So, it’s a crazy amount of people that came to check out the bridge. I guess today, we’d probably just, you know, use our iPhones.
Anyway, today you can go and see this bridge. It can be viewed from many parts of Sydney’s CBD. You can get a train across, you can drive across it, you can cycle or walk across it, and you can even climb to the very top of it if you desire.
Anyway, guys, that is it for today. A massive thank you for listening and, I guess, a small mention, just remember, guys, that I am in the process of doing up the website, and when it comes in in the future I will be charging a small fee for the transcripts and the MP3 downloads. And so, the whole point of bringing this in, and the reason I want to remind you, is because I’m hiring other people to work for me to try and help me bring better content for you guys.
So, I thank you so much for all the people who replied to me via email when I sent that out this week. I really, really appreciated the replies that I got, and you guys overwhelmingly told me it was a good idea and that I should definitely start charging so that I can afford to improve the content and improve my English.
So, a massive thank you to you guys, and yeah, thank you for encouraging me, because sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you are making the right decision and that’s why I really enjoy putting it to you guys and asking you guys for your feedback. So, thank you.
Anyway, I’ll see you next week. Have a ripper of a weekend!
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