Lisa's week

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge


This week’s entry comes to you courtesy of a special request from someone who was listening to the Adele hit, Water Under the Bridge, and was interested to realise that this is an English idiom.

Water under the bridge

Example in use: From the Adele song:

“If you're gonna let me down
Let me down gently don't pretend
That you don't want me
Our love ain't water under the bridge”

Meaning: Let the past be the past and move on because you can’t change anything.

Possible German equivalent: Schnee von gestern.

Possible origin: I’ve had a good look around and to be honest, I can’t seem to find any definitive answer as to where this idiom originated.

One theory was that it has ancient connections and is related to the phrase used by the pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus (4th to 5th century BC), “You cannot step twice in the same river.”

Of course, this is perfectly true as the water is constantly flowing and the water at your feet this second is totally different to the water a second ago. And this is the same principle as watching water under the bridge. As you look down, the water changes and you are always looking at a “new” present with no way to look back at the past – the water that was there will never return so there’s no point in wishing it could.

Another theory I found was that it has a French origin from the 1762 Dictionary of the French Academy.

Both the expressions "Laisser passer l'eau sous les ponts"(let water flow under the bridge) and"Il passera bien de l'eau sous les ponts" (there will be lot of water flowing under the bridge) can be found in the dictionary and are very similar to those we use today in English.

According to sources online, it seems that the phrase entered standard English sometime in the early 1930s and is now an often-used expression.

In the original question that promoted this week’s look at idioms, Adele is singing about a break-up in a relationship that she thinks she can see coming. However in the chorus (quoted above), she is asking her lover to at least admit that he loves her and that their love is not in the past, even if the relationship is over.

Now I bet, if you’re like me, you’ll have that Adele song going round and round in your head for the rest of the day! A real earworm for sure. And yes! We really do use that word and I believe it’s been given to us by the German language. But that’s a topic for another Lisa’s Week.

Bridge / brɪdʒ

What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!

Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot

Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?

Episode 30: Bless you!

Episode 31: What are you thankful for?

Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?

Episode 33: What's behind the door?

Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!

Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?

Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year

Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?

Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2

Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?

Episode 40: Sweet Valentine

Episode 41: A Reminder

Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!

Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils

Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question

Episode 45: The whole world's going green!

Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs

Episode 47: The joke's on you!

Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!

Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings

Episode 50: We use German words too

Episode 51: Celebrating St George

Episode 52: The perfect start to the day

Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)

Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)

Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)

Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!

Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1

Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2

Episode 59: Summer Solstice

Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20

Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live

Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Episode 63:  I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!