What’s in a Name? A Guide to Naming Bridges (and other Things)

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What’s in a name? Somewhere in New York City, a new set of twin bridges will be named after New York Governor Mario Cuomo for his years of service in the Big Apple, the state and in the Republican Party. It would be the 12th bridge in the metropolitan area to have been named after a famous person, including the two well-known American politicians. Despite leaving their marks on their legacies, what in a name?

 

What’s in a name?  In states, like Oklahoma, bridges have been named for politicians who wanted to be famous during their time in office, but whose political careers were marred by scandal. They include the likes of Henry Simpson Johnston, Frank Lynch and Raymond Gary- the first was impeached and thrown out after two years as governor; the second took kickbacks while representative and the other “bought organs for the churches and pianos for the bawds,” as the secretary used in her title of the biography, bashing the male half of the husband-wife team. What’s in a name?

 

What’s in a name? Somewhere in the United States, bridges are being conceived and names are being brought up after current members of Congress and the White House. Whether it is a suspension bridge spanning the Minnesota River east of Granite Falls- making it the longest in the world- named after Paul Ryan, a piece of slab bridge over the Ohio River in Cincinnati named after Mitch McConnell, A concrete deck cantilever bridge with a marble statue named after Donald Trump in Washington, and even a series of cable-stayed bridges with a mermaid statue resembling Ms. Conway. These people are famous for undoing the legacy of President Obama that had benefitted much of the American population, almost all of whom think these people deserve to get the boot earliest after the Congressional Elections next year, which if Democrats retake Congress by the widest of margins, impeachment, and call for new presidential elections will definitely be on the table.  What’s in a name?

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What’s in a name? In Pittsburgh, three sister bridges, each built in the late 1920s, each having a similar design, are named after three local but national favorites: Rachel Carson, Andy Warhol and Roberto Clemente, each setting their marks in the areas of environment, arts and sports respectively; each one has posters, statues and other decorations served in honor and memory. Each one we remember in our history books. What’s in a name?

 

What’s in a name? Many bridges are named after famous people, yet 75% really were not that famous, unless you are thinking of “dollar and sense.” If we look at each sign on the structure, we sometimes have to ask the following questions: 1. Who were these people? 2. How did they leave their mark in history? 3. Was their legacy beneficial or a hindrance? If we look at the bridges that were named after unknown politicians, many of us don’t even know who they really were, let alone don’t want to even know about them because of corruption, scandals and other policies that harmed the American public and our allies. Is our history becoming based on how politicians perform “on stage” on Capitol Hill? Let alone in our state legislature?  If so, then may the most attractive jobs in America be a politician, for like lawyers (many, not all of them), they love to lie, deceive, gaslight and even rob the common person, regardless of social, ethical, religious and psychological backgrounds. If we want that, then we might as well have bridges named after Hollywood film stars who have done the stuff politicians have done, for it would have the exact same effect.

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When I think of America, I think of the people who really did make a difference in terms of transforming the country to what it is today. I think of Giovanni de Verrazano who discovered New York, and whose bridge, Othmar H. Ammann’s last prized landmark before his death in 1965, was named after him. That bridge is still connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn. I think of Daniel Boone, who opened the new frontier for settlers. There had been a bridge named for him before it was imploded in place of a new bland concrete slab bridge in 2016. I think of George Washington, who led the colonies to victory, presided over the Constitution and was our first president. While there were several bridges named after him, many are being wiped off the map. The same applies to other structures named after the founding fathers.  And while we have several structures named in honor and memory of the veterans who fought in the wars, the aesthetic value is really bland in taste and the artistic value has really gotten lost in the pile of steel and concrete.

 

Have we lost our true value of our culture, our history and even our identity?  Have we given up too much of our freedom and creative talents to make the best for others, while giving the narccists who have done nothing good the honors they don’t deserve?  Have we forgotten the concept of being honored for our own merits?  When I look at the bridges named after Rachel Carson, Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol in Pittsburgh, I see the reason behind them getting their honors, for they contributed to shaping American society to what is still is today. Even having bridges named in honor of Stan (the Man) Musial and James Eads in St. Louis are justified, for the former left his mark in baseball and the latter for creating the first steel bridge in America. Have we seen politicians contribute as these people have done? The answer to that question is, in my humble opinion is no, with only a few exceptions.  It’s really time to take a look at how we honor our people. Do we honor them because of money and power or because they carry a certain title? Or do we honor them for their merits and contributions to American society?

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Each of us has our set of guidelines. Mine would be on the basis of creating and innovating things that have contributed to America in terms of science and technology, history, culture and society. I hope you all have the same ideas as I do, if we really want to move forward as an entity that should be setting examples for other countries.

 

And while my ( not yet honored) candidates would make up a quarter of the country’s population, I have my top five who deserve to have their bridges named after them, and I hope the designs will be more appealing than just having green road signs at each entrance. My top five would be:  Barack Obama, Red Cloud, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Othmar H. Ammann. Honorably mentioned would include Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Sally Ride, Vince Lombardi, Carrie Fisher, Sinclair Lewis, Garrison Keillor, Charlie Wilson, George HW Bush, Harper Lee and Massasoit, just to name a few. We need a few crossings but not necessarily new bridges. We just need to be sensible as to naming the next bridges after famous people.

 

And so, for the Fourth of July, I must ask you: Who would deserve to be honored on a bridge and/or other places? Think very carefully before deciding…..

 

The  Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and sister column The Flensburg Files would like to wish all Americans at home and abroad a Happy Fourth of July. Think of the people who made a difference for this country and how it set an example for others.

 

God bless you!

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All They Want is Stuff: The Use of Stop-Gaps in English Part I

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Willow Creek Bridge in Mason City in the 1950s: New Bridge on the Left, Antique 1800s Bridge on the Right. Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Transportation

This article is co-produced with sister column, the Flensburg Files in connection with a project being constructed.

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Stop-gaps. Each language has its set of stop-gap words that people use, either as a substitute for a word they were looking for (but couldn’t find it), or as a bridge in the conversation with the purpose of avoiding a pause and revealing their insecurities in communicating with other people. Many of us are guilty of using these stop-gaps, both in our native tongue as well as when learning a foreign language. Here are some examples of how they are used in English:

  1. In connection with the picture above, I had my final conversation with my grandmother back in January 2007 about her community’s strive to destroying historic buildings and bridges, including a bridge near her home and a high school that used to be a haven for theatricals. Her reaction to the city’s plan to tear down the high school: “All they want is stuff!”  Difficult to replace stuff with new or modern things, but she was opposed to modernization, fighting all the way up to her death three months later.  Highly spirited woman I admired. 🙂 ❤
  2. A former college classmate goes off on a tangent over a teenager’s excessive use of “like.” Example: “I was like great. We could like meet at like 7:30 at like the theatre. Would you like that?”  Overhearing this in a restaurant, she paints a vivid reaction on facebook.  Geil! 🙂
  3. A college professor stresses the importance of not using thing in a paper and was appalled to see at least 10 of these words in a 25-page paper in English. That student bawled his eyes out while receiving a failing grade, using that as one of the main reasons justifying the need to rewrite it.  The professor was Czech and his student was from Saxony, who had spent time in Iowa as a high school exchange student, by the way. 😉

But the underlying question is which of these stop-gap words are really informal and used for personal communication, and which ones are formal and can be used  for formal purposes as well as for research papers? In connection with a project being conducted at a university in Jena, a question for the forum is being introduced for you to think about. All you need is two minutes of your time to answer the following questions:

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1. Which of these words do you use the most in terms of verbal communication?

 

2. Which of these words do you use the most in terms of written communication?

3. Which of these words do you think are considered stop-gaps and used for informal communication?

4. Which of these words do you think are NOT stop-gaps because of their use in formal communication?

5. Why do you use stop-gap words in English?

For the first two questions, only one word applies; the next two has a limit of five possibilities and the last question has more than one answer possible. Each one has an option where you can add other words and items that are not on the list.  You have until 16 May, 2016 to vote. The results and some exercises will come in June in the Flensburg Files. In case of any questions, please feel free to contact Jason Smith at the Files, using the contact details in the website under About.

The purpose of the questionnaire is to find out how often these stop-gap words are being used and why they are used. Already there have been discussions about this subject and even the author has put together a worksheet on this subject for use in college (that will be presented in the June article). It will help linguists and English teachers find ways to modify the use of stop-gaps and (especially for the latter) encourage students of English to use other alternatives and widen their vocabulary. Interesting is to compare the use of stop-gap words in English with that of other languages, including German- one of the words has been used here in this article.

Can you figure this one out and find the English equivalent? 🙂

 

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The Wrong Picture

Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Over the holiday season, as I was celebrating with family and getting some photo opportunities of some bridges in Iowa and Minnesota, one of my fellow pontists brought this painting up to the attention of the historic bridge community. It was a sketch of low quality showing a tall suspension bridge, trying to go along the lines of the Golden Gate Bridge but it is unknown whether it is the Golden Girl or the Big Mac Bridge (aka Mackinac Bridge) in Michigan because it was too blurry to tell. To an art teacher, the “artist” portraying this bridge would have received a failing grade for its lack of quality. However, both the teacher as well as a historian would have gotten grey hair and wrinkly had they seen that the title of this “pseudo-drawing” been touted as The Brooklyn Bridge!

I think I feel the tremble of the ground as a result of the Roebling family coming out of their graves for that!

While this person had good intentions of making money, and Wal-mart (where the drawing was spotted) was the place to sell the artwork, little did he realize that with the help of the internet and some photos from books and other sources, he would have found out that there is a stark contrast between the Brooklyn, Mackinac and the Golden Gate Bridges. How stark? The photos below speak for themselves…..

Golden Gate Brifdge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Golden Gate Brifdge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Transversal view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Nathan Holth

The problem with this misperception of this drawing is that many people do not know what the bridges look like and will take drawings like this one to mislead them into knowing that it is this bridge, when in all reality the actual appearance is anything but that. Furthermore, both the aforementioned bridges have been seen in books and movies, so the differences between them should be obvious. Yet with our total embrace with electronic games and technology as if we are swimming in a pool of water is causing us to lose sight on our surroundings, let along our basic knowledge of history and other core subjects that they all seem to be placed in the backburner. We become disillusioned to what we see, and the younger the generation, the more likely they will identify with the wrong items and have them stick to a point where it becomes more difficult to unglue.

So in order to avoid this type of misunderstanding and misleading identification, here is a word of advice to give to the next person who attempts to draw or paint a picture of something as iconic as a historic bridge: Get it right the first time!

Look at the photos and films, visualize in your head what it looks like and how it should look on paper, and allow yourself an ample amount of time to do the artwork correctly. And don’t worry about the issues of copyright laws. If you do the artwork differently than the one before that, yours will turn out just as well, if not better.

As Gaudenz Assenza, former professor of political science at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany and now professor at the Catholic University of Rozemborok in Slovakia once quoted: Quality trumps quantity in all aspects of life.  While this may refer to aspects on the level of academia, it also applies to all aspects in life, especially when it comes to something like artwork. Think about this before putting the lead to the leaf, no matter how you do it.

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The Wrong Picture

Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Over the holiday season, as I was celebrating with family and getting some photo opportunities of some bridges in Iowa and Minnesota, one of my fellow pontists brought this painting up to the attention of the historic bridge community. It was a sketch of low quality showing a tall suspension bridge, trying to go along the lines of the Golden Gate Bridge but it is unknown whether it is the Golden Girl or the Big Mac Bridge (aka Mackinac Bridge) in Michigan because it was too blurry to tell. To an art teacher, the “artist” portraying this bridge would have received a failing grade for its lack of quality. However, both the teacher as well as a historian would have gotten grey hair and wrinkly had they seen that the title of this “pseudo-drawing” been touted as The Brooklyn Bridge!

I think I feel the tremble of the ground as a result of the Roebling family coming out of their graves for that!

While this person had good intentions of making money, and Wal-mart (where the drawing was spotted) was the place to sell the artwork, little did he realize that with the help of the internet and some photos from books and other sources, he would have found out that there is a stark contrast between the Brooklyn, Mackinac and the Golden Gate Bridges. How stark? The photos below speak for themselves…..

Golden Gate Brifdge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Golden Gate Brifdge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

 

Transversal view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Nathan Holth

The problem with this misperception of this drawing is that many people do not know what the bridges look like and will take drawings like this one to mislead them into knowing that it is this bridge, when in all reality the actual appearance is anything but that. Furthermore, both the aforementioned bridges have been seen in books and movies, so the differences between them should be obvious. Yet with our total embrace with electronic games and technology as if we are swimming in a pool of water is causing us to lose sight on our surroundings, let along our basic knowledge of history and other core subjects that they all seem to be placed in the backburner. We become disillusioned to what we see, and the younger the generation, the more likely they will identify with the wrong items and have them stick to a point where it becomes more difficult to unglue.

So in order to avoid this type of misunderstanding and misleading identification, here is a word of advice to give to the next person who attempts to draw or paint a picture of something as iconic as a historic bridge: Get it right the first time!

Look at the photos and films, visualize in your head what it looks like and how it should look on paper, and allow yourself an ample amount of time to do the artwork correctly. And don’t worry about the issues of copyright laws. If you do the artwork differently than the one before that, yours will turn out just as well, if not better.

As Gaudenz Assenza, former professor of political science at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany and now professor at the Catholic University of Rozemborok in Slovakia once quoted: Quality trumps quantity in all aspects of life.  While this may refer to aspects on the level of academia, it also applies to all aspects in life, especially when it comes to something like artwork. Think about this before putting the lead to the leaf, no matter how you do it.

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Flensburg-Bridgehunter Merchandise on Sale through Café Press

 

Rosedale Bridge. Photo taken in September 2010

If you are looking for the best gift for your loved one and are not sure what to get them, or know someone who loves bridges, photography, landscapes or the like, or you want to surprise them with something you don’t find on the shelves of any supermarket, then perhaps you can try the Flensburg-Bridgehunter Online Shop. Powered by Café Press, this year’s items include new calendars from the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, featuring the historic truss bridges of Iowa as well as the bridges of Minnesota, which are selling like hotcakes even as this goes to the press. In addition, merchandise carrying the Chronicle’ new logo are also for sale, including wall clocks and coffee cups. Some of them feature historic bridges that are the focus of preservation efforts.  The Flensburg Files has a second installment of the Night Travel series for 2015, in addition to part I that was produced in 2012 but is available in the 2015 version. This in addition to a new set of photos and journals to keep track of your travels and thoughts.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products provided by the Chronicles and the Files, click here. This will take you directly to the store. Hope you find what you are looking for and thank you for shopping.

Historic Bridges along the Des Moines River- book project

Murray Bridge spanning the Des Moines River in Humboldt County. Built in 1905 by A.H. Austin. Photo taken in September 2010

Growing up in Jackson County, Minnesota, I was acquainted with historic bridges that had once crossed the Des Moines River, remembering the thousands times I had crossed the Petersburg Rd. Bridge, located just north of my grandma’s place when I visited her, or paying homage to those in the northern part of the county. They were unique because of their individual character and history. They were also part of our past, which the future generations have little to no knowledge about.

Despite almost all of them disappearing to progress, I wrote a book about Jackson County’s historic bridges in 2007 and again in 2012, featuring the bridges along the Des Moines River, where over a dozen bridges had once crossed the major river, now there are only 9 left in use.  Realizing the popularity of the books on “disappearing” historic bridges on book shelves in the libraries and book stores, it is time to take this subject to the next level- which is scrolling down the Des Moines River, digging up interesting bridge facts for readers to look at.

Petersburg Road Bridge in Jackson, Minnesota. Built in 1907, the bridge was torn down in 1995. Photo taken in 1992.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m looking for any information and old photos of bridges (as well as photos of old bridges before they disappeared) along the Des Moines River for use in a book bearing the above-mentioned title.

One has to keep in mind that the Des Moines River started in two different places. The west branch starts at Lake Shetek in Murray County and snakes its way through Cottonwood and Jackson Counties before making a straight shot going southeast. The east branch starts in Jackson County east of Alpha, and after meandering through Martin, Emmet and Kossuth Counties, joins the west branch south of Humboldt before slicing Iowa in half, passing through Des Moines, Red Rock Lake, and Ottumwa before emptying into the Mississippi River south of Keokuk. The total length of the river is 525 miles (845 km). Like the border it temporarily forms between Iowa and Missouri before its confluence at Keokuk, the river in Iowa also represents the border between the bridges builders from the east coast that built various iron bridges in the eastern half of the state and the bridges built by those who were based in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and all points to the west. Examples of bridges built by both sides of the spectrum are found in some history books, and some can be visited today by tourists and passers-by alike. This includes the Kilbourn, Bentonsport, Eveland, Bellefont and Horn’s Ferry Bridges, as well as bridges in Des Moines, Ottumwa, and Fort Dodge. Also a bonus is the number of railroad trestles that were built along the river, one of which was named after Kate Shelly, the girl who informed the station tenant of the bridge being washed out in a storm and stopped an incoming passenger train before it fell into the river.

Kilen Woods State Park Bridge in Jackson County, Minnesota. Built in 1913, replaced in 2004. Photo taken in 1994

If you have any information, stories and photos that you care to share in the book project, please contact me via e-mail at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. For photos, please let me know the source so that it is cited in the book accordingly. Some mystery bridge articles in connection with some bridges along the river will be posted in the Chronicles and will be listed in the page entitled Forums and Inquiries under the title: Mystery Bridges. If you have any questions about the project or have anything that will contribute to the project, let me know and I’ll be happy to take them on. The Chronicles will keep you up to date as to how the book project is going and when it will be completed and ready for publishing. It is hoped that it will be finished in 2-3 years but it depends on the information found and how book will be created.

There is the Mississippi River bridge book set. Two other river books are in the works by a couple other pontists. Many cities have their own books on the history of bridges. It is hoped that the Des Moines River bridge book will be another one for readers to look at and cherish for years to come.

 

Bridge Photos on Sale

Browns Creek Bridge near Stillwater, Minnesota. Winner of this year’s Best Kept Secret Award for the US. Photo taken and submitted by David Parker of David Parker Photography.

Interested in picking up a good photo? Perhaps one of a historic or modern bridge as a gift or an addition to one of the rooms in the house?  If interested, one of the fellow pontists and professional photographer is selling them this weekend.

David Parker, who owns Parker Photography based in Stillwater, Minnesota, is hosting a garage sale this Saturday, June 7th from 1:00 to 5:00 pm at his studio, located at 1149 Bergmann Drive in Stillwater. There, you will have an opportunity to purchase one of his works, as well as order any unprinted photos that are not in stock. Some of the photos on the selling block include landscapes, historic buildings and  bridges in parts of Minnesota (including the Twin Cities), including this one, the Browns Creek Bridge, which received the 2012 Othmar H. Ammann Award for Best Kept Secret.

Refreshments will be provided. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Mr. Parker using the following contact details here. Hope to see you there and best of luck finding the best photo. 🙂