The No Name Bridge

Oakland_Bay_Bridge_from_Yerba_Buena_IslandThe naming of bridges (see photo) after notable (important; remarkable) people is a common practice (something often done) in many countries. On the East Coast (part of the U.S. on the Atlantic Ocean), you’ll find the Walt Whitman Bridge, spanning (reaching from one side to the other) the Delaware River separating the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and named after the American poet Walt Whitman (1818-1892). Quite often, you’ll find bridges named after politicians, such as presidents. One example is the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, which connects the states of Virginia and Maryland, and which is named after our 28th president, who served (was in an elected or appointed job) from 1913 to 1921.

While the naming of some landmarks (important locations or structures) is simple and occurs following a unanimous (without anyone disagreeing) decision, others are more contentious (causing argument or disagreement). One recent example is the new span (length) of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco connecting the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.

Some people want to name it after (use the name) Willie Brown, a former mayor (highest elected leader) of San Francisco and assembly member (member of the state government). The state legislature (law-making group of politicians) approved this 68 to 0, but now people are voicing their disagreement, including the current State of California Governor Jerry Brown (no relation (Jerry Brown and Willie Brown are not related by blood)). For some people, Willie Brown was a political enemy and naming the bridge after him doesn’t sit right (doesn’t feel right; isn’t acceptable) with them.

These kinds of naming controversies are not new, of course. A recent National Public Radio article mentioned this and other examples. According to the author of the NPR article, this is why most of the bridges in the U.S. are unnamed, or not named.

Are bridges and landmarks (important places easily seen from a distance) normally named where you live? Have there been similar types of controversy? Have any had name changes for political or other similar reasons?

– Lucy

 Photo Credit: Oakland Bay Bridge from Yerba Buena Island from Wikipedia

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17 Responses to The No Name Bridge

  1. h3aL says:

    Hey there across the little pond!

    I’m not sure with what sound “unanimous” is beginning, but if ut is “schwa” or something similar, we wneed the indefinite article “an”, don’t we?

    All the best from Bavaria,

  2. Myo ko ko says:

    Hi Lucy

    Here we don’t have such ‘naming’ disputes.
    Because it’s always our government body that built bridges.
    The authority first announces the news to public if it is planning on constructing a bridge.
    There the name to be given to that bridge is chosen in advanced.
    That is, the name and the project always come together from the very start.

    It seems that in your nation, most of the bridges are first shaped up and name them after completions.
    It is also a wonder to find out that there is a number of bridges in the U.S. that are left unnamed.

    Thanks also for the additional explanation of “no relation.”
    When I first read it in the NPR’s article, I didn’t get it.

    It’s also hilarious to read about President Obama signing a legislation to name a bridge “the Stan
    Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge” to please both sides and an Illinoise Republican representative
    calling it “a perfect compromise.”

    Thanks Lucy
    It’s always a pleasure and gifted gift for us to have you here as our ESL teacher.

    Myo ko ko

  3. Øyvor Steinsheim says:


    Well, bridges are not named after people in Norway, as far as I know, streets in our towns however, are named after famous people, like
    authors, and persons named in the authors books. Especially I like the names in a little city in Eastern Norway, Røros, that by the way, is
    on World Heritage List, an author, Johan Falkberget, wrote many novels about the life of the miners in Røros, these are my favorite Norwegian author,
    he wrote very well, maybe his books are translated to English.. many of the names of people from this book have their names on these narrow streets, and they
    are written in dialect belonging to Røros..
    We also have parks and buildings named after famous people, but I`ve never heard of any disagreement when it comes to this issue

  4. AMIN.Iran says:

    At first,let me express my deepest gratitude towards you dears Dr lucy and Jeff cause’ of doing these top articles.I am writing from a small town in Iran,town of SafiAbad, and looking forward to seeing you you with all of my heart.To be perfectly honest about bridges,they are named after national Heroes,specially those who have saved the lives of lots of people during the eight-year war and have been killed and we proud of them.There is no disagreement here over naming them and after a meeting among decision-makers,it will be done quickly.
    sacrifice you,AMIN

  5. emiliano says:

    Dear Lucy, Not at all.
    Bridge names are in relation with the cities where the bridges are but either with the rivers
    where the bridge is and not with other people names.
    Here there are very old bridges, some of them from the Roman Civilization or the Arabs
    who were in Spain.
    As rivers are not very wide it is easy to have bridges with nearly two thousand years and
    these one are the best and more beautifuls of all.

    We use to call them “El Puente Romano de Cordoba” el de Salamanca, el de Merida, el
    de Alcántara and so on. These are names of the cities where the bridges are.

    Spain is a very old country with lot of buildings from the time of Romans, Arabs or
    another civilizations.

    Thanks a lot dear Lucy.


  6. Dan says:

    Hello Lucy.

    Since I am writing from the most beautiful nation on the planet under the artistic aspect -Italy- of course we have thousands of landmarks over here.

    I am sure there have been similar controversy in the past naming all these masterpieces.

    As I see it, it looks like a no brainer decision the one about the Bay Bridge. They should simply named it after the Designer or Engineer working on it, or why not! one of the workers.

    I would like to share with you guys a couple of sentences I have heard on the radio recently that I liked.

    One is: I am not the brightest bulb in the box.

    And the second one is: I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    I heard those from people calling in and expressing their opinion. I guess it is an humble way of expressing one’s opinion.

    If you guys hear/read some phrases that stick in your mind like the examples above, please share it.

    Thank you, and have a nice weekend.

    Look forward of reading from you guys

  7. Myo ko ko says:

    Your today’s post reminds me of a poem I learned in my school days.
    As always, at school we were reading it aloud as if we’re singing a song,
    with rhythms, with melodies. Before I write this note, I’ve had a good search
    on the web about this poem and I have failed.

    An unkown poet composed this poem. So it’s safe to share it here.
    There may be some errors in this version because I have to retrieve it
    from my old memories. So let me know here if someone here finds out the correct version.

    I like a bridge,
    Any kind of bridges at all.
    A great steel bridge
    With tower, staff, and walls.
    An old covered bridge
    That spans a waterfall.
    A hewn stone bridge
    With its rugged floor and wall.
    A railroad bridge
    Where freight trains slowly crawl.
    A wooden bridge, a cement bridge
    Whether big or small.

    Yes, I like a bridge,
    Any kind of bridge at all.
    Poet: Anonymous

    OK, my ESL friends here,
    If we meet each other face to face someday in the future,
    I’d love to sing this poem and a few others to you!

    But bye for now! 😉
    Myo ko ko
    From the land of poems that no one has ever heard of.

  8. Wang says:

    Thank Lucy for sharing such info

    Like Myo’s, a new plan in my country always comes with a name which is usually chosen right at the time
    where first ideals of the plan cross someone’s mind. The thing is that, back here, only roads are used to honor someone.
    There is still no bridge titled after somebody’s name pops up in my mind yet. To answer the question why,
    here I think it is one of the reasons. How long do you think a bridge will usually last?
    Because most of the bridges in my country are designed to last within a hundred years, therefore the name of it
    will also be at the same age. So with a certain amount of time, it just doesn’t sound perfect,
    long enough to remind the current generations of how important that person was to the the nation. On the contrary, a road makes up another story.
    I think it is quite rare that a road’s name will be changed, at least within a regime. Do you think so?

    I found it quite ridiculous that the US president who is considered as the most important person on earth had to step up to help settle the controversy.
    At the end of the road, it seemed like he couldn’t make it work out and then had to blend the two suggestions into one.
    I feet a bit sorry for the President that with his role he would have done many more big-bore issues instead of the antics of politicians.

    Recently my country has mourned for our greatest general, Vo Nguyen Giap.
    He lived to the ripe old age of 103 and died by the early of this month. The hero was one of the founders of the nation
    who brought the freedom and independence into our country. He beat the French, forced the US army to withdraw out of our country
    and helped to defeated the invasion of Chinese (it’s how we call the fight back here) in 1979. During the wake which lasted for 2 days,
    every entertaining show had to be cancelled or postponed nationwide, every flat had to be at half-mast. We used a canon carriage to carry His coffin instead of
    a normal hearse. Well, just a few words to let you imagine how treasure He was to our nation.
    By this time, plenty of people is circulating a petition for opting one of our newly opened streets to be named after His name.
    Many localities have taken the calling up. Some even want to choose our most bustling airport which is in my city as an option in place of a road.

    Best regard


  9. Peter says:

    Well, it is a known fact that all the countries all over the wild have the tendencies to have some sweet memories or historic events or names attached to different kinds of city structures ranging from bridges to alleys .
    I bet my buttom dollar that one way or another it has occurred to every each one if you that you noticed streets, buildings , monuments ,and so on that are names after some famouse historic figures or epic events everything you are away in different countries or coties. Well, all these suggest that it is a common practice throughout the world
    It is nothing particular to a certain ethnicity or country.
    Here in Totonto you see here or there the name of a well known or popular person on a plague attached to the wall at the beginning of a alley , cull-de-sac or even boulevard

  10. Wang says:

    Hey Oyvor!

    Do you know the song titled “The fox (what does the fox say)”? it is represented by an Norwegian singer. I have just watched it this morning

    Some hope it could be a new Gangnam style sensation. Personally, I think they do pretty well on the music and the scene. I have to admit that I love the wood the most by the clip

    I am not sure whether the author tried to convey any messages about the fox piece or not and I found its lyrics quite boring, it is more likely for commercial life than sending out a message about environment

    But I also do find an interesting thing in it and at least it attracts my attention on that part 😛

    In accord with the title of the song, do you know how the fox communicate with each other?

  11. Wang says:

    Hey Peter! how are you? where have you been? I haven’t seen your writing such a long time. It’s great to see you again. We have just mentioned about you the last blog

  12. Myo ko ko says:

    Hey Wang,

    I feel a really really big relief that you’ve got straight about me.
    Now I don’t need to go under knife to switch myself from a guy into a lady! 😉
    Thanks my Lucky star!

    You see, Peter has shown up here.

    Hey Peter
    I’m glad you’re still alive! 😉
    Where have you been hiding from all of us?
    Don’t you know that you’re all the stimulus we need!!! 😛

    Your dyed-in-the-wool friend
    Myo ko ko

  13. Parviz says:

    Hi Lucy,
    This is a universal tradition to name landmarks after famous and infamous people. Here we are such a tradition, too. but, the process in not clear and contentious, as you mentioned.
    There some bridges and Tourist attraction places and cemeteries named after some poets and heroes, which we read about them in books.

    Thank you,

  14. Parviz says:

    Hi every body,
    As I am usually late in everything, I had to post my comments with a two-days delay.
    Few months ago I received a fantastic e-mail from a friend, containing a poem about the things most of us worry about.
    I decided that It wouldn’t be irrelevant, if I shared this amazing poem with you, exactly as he send it to me.

    “You could presently be wasting a lot of mental energy on something that will never happen.
    This poem, “The Bridge You’ll Never Cross, written by Grenville Kleiser may be just the prescription you are seeking.

    It’s what you think that makes the world
    Seem sad or gray to you;
    Your mind may colour all things gray
    Or make them radiant hue.
    Be glad today, be true be wise,
    Distinguish gold from dross;
    Waste neither time nor thought about
    The bridge you’ll never cross.
    There’s useful work for you to do,
    For hand and brain and heart;
    There’s urgent human service too,
    In which to take your part.
    Make every opportunity
    A worth-while gain, not loss;
    The best is yours, so do not fear
    The bridge you’ll never cross.
    If life seems drab and difficult,
    Just face it with a will;
    You do not have to work alone,
    Since God is with you still.
    Press on with courage toward the goal,
    With truth your shield emboss;
    Be strong, look up and just ignore
    The bridge you’ll never cross.

    That is a tremendous poem. Anyone who reads it and relates the author’s advice to their life’s situation has to feel better. I have found over the years, that reading material such as this has a very positive effect on our attitude. It is certainly more beneficial than reading or listening to some tragedy.

    Try it today! Don’t worry about the bridge you’ll never cross.”
    I have never stopped reading this poem, since I got it. And assumed it relate to the lives of most of us, certainly id did with mine.
    Thank you,

  15. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    All I can write is that all this is useless. The bridge is important but the name they give to it is not compared with the use of them. I still don’t understand why all this waste of energy in such little things. When men will learn the lessons the life has to teach? Some day? It may be! I don’t know.
    Aecio, from the wonderful land named Brazil, where there is no sin, only beautiful landscapes.

  16. Mehdi Karimi says:

    Thanks lucy for the contentious topics.

    The challenge of naming the landmarks and recognizable buildings and bridges are always a dilemma in some of the developed countries.Why?

    Naming the streets and bridges are usually chosen based on famous people who do a great role in human life regardless belonging to a certain country or continent.Those included scientists,politicians,martyrs,
    philosophers and saints.For these controversy I suggest the name of flowers or colors or fruits to solve the problem and this beautiful bridge have had a name.

  17. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Mehdi, do you think only famous people deserve to have their names on bridges and streets? Is it fair? Why don’t poor people have their names too? They build history like we all. They are important because they work, they grow family, they play an important role in the society, don’t they? Since ancient times the names of monuments are put after heroes. Why this? Something has to happen so that things change.
    I am sorry for all that.
    Aecio, someone who doesn’t agree with general thoughts.

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