Some say that the English language is one of the most difficult to learn. For me it would be Chinese or Arabic; English, on the other hand, just seem to come naturally to me. I guess you could call it a birthright.
One of the reasons it is considered so difficult is that a single word can have many meanings, variations and pronunciations.
Take the word bridge, for example. Bridge has only one spelling and only one pronunciation.
Let’s see, there’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” both hit movies.
There are the George Washington Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge and many other famous river spans. There is even the Brooklyn Bridge which has been bought and sold many times.
There is the bridge on a ship from where the captain can give orders such as full steam ahead, turn 20 degrees port and bring me a glass when you have done that.
There are covered bridges and toll bridges; high bridges and low bridges (whoops, look out for flying objects).
There’s the bridge in your mouth (or mine, anyway) that collects all the debris that helps produce tooth decay that may well necessitate another bridge.
There are all variations of the word such as bridging the gap and a fix called bridgework, both to the benefit of the dental industry.
Of course there is abridged and unabridged, both of which appear in the unabridged version of the dictionary although only abridged appears in the abridged version.
There are also cities like Cambridge and Bridgeport. There is a Bridgestone Tire and even a Bridgestone golf ball, almost guaranteed to help your game. Well, maybe your game, but it didn’t help mine. Of course the only thing that would help my game is abstinence.
But when I think of bridge, I think of that challenging, frustrating, yet wondrous game that may be responsible for more divorces than shotguns produce weddings.
The game of bridge is derived from the game of whist, which was popular in England in the 1800s. But you can’t be too wistful if you want to play good whist, or good bridge. Which brings me back to my subject, playing bridge.
When I was a freshman at college, I met a senior who told me that the two most important requirements in life were learning to play golf and bridge. Well, I already described my golf game which survives only because of the handicap system. Bridge, on the other hand, may have many handicapped players, but no system that assists them — evens the playing field so to speak.
There may even be mulligans permitted in golf, but not in bridge where reneges are never forgiven and severely penalized.
But bridge does have conventions, more conventions than even Las Vegas has. Let’s see, there is Blackwood and Stayman, Gerber and Jacoby Transfers, Rules of nine and 15 and many more.
There is rubber bridge and duplicate bridge and even a game called Chicago.
There are bids and rebids. There are partners who often act more like adversaries when disagreeing on how a hand should be bid or played.
There are doubles (which means trouble for the bidders) and redoubles (which means double trouble for the doublers).
There are dummies who are not permitted to speak under penalty of disqualification.
The game uses only 52 cards, no jokers. The only jokers permitted are the kibitzers. Kibitzers can look and listen, but cannot laugh (out loud).
Whoops. I’ve got to close. My partner has finished the hand and has asked the dummy to return.