Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: water under the bridge; water over the dam.

water under the bridge; water over the dam. Both phrases allude to time gone by and events passed. What the latter phrase adds to the former is the connotation of missed opportunities — e.g.: o “Whether other prosecutions should have taken place under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is another question, and it appears at this point to be water over the dam unless Mr. Fitzgerald and the Department of Justice have further plans in mind.” Editorial, “Libby’s Fate,” Pitt. Post-Gaz., 7 June 2007, at B6. o “After a one-year hiatus — and a whole lot of water under the bridge since then — the World Bank is bringing back the office Christmas party.” Amy Argetsinger & Roxanne Roberts, “Banking on Holiday Cheer,” Wash. Post, 3 Dec. 2007, at C3. The two expressions occasionally get mangled — e.g.: “As I’ve said before, Newark never should have dumped $210 million into the arena . . . . That, however, is water over the bridge [read ‘water under the bridge’ or ‘water over the dam’] and into the sewer.” Joan Whitlow, “Around Arena, Rubble, Rubble, Toil and Trouble,” Star-Ledger (Newark), 5 Oct. 2007, Editorial §, at 19. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “When we speak or write we want to be understood and respected. We want to convey our meaning and we want to do it in a way that will command admiration. To accomplish these ends we must know the meanings of words, their specific meanings and their connotations, implications and overtones.” Bergen Evans & Cornelia Evans, A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage v (1957). ====================
Scroll to Top