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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2010-09-04 14:40:55

From: Spain
Registered: 2009-08-15
Posts: 440

Painting the fourth bridge

This might be a charming reshaping of ‘like painting the Forth bridge’ (A big railway bridge across the Firth of Forth whose painting has become a metaphor for an unending job that has to be restarted the moment it has finished ( I don’t know if it’s an expression used outside the UK, hence the patronising explanation!))

When the writers have written ‘Fourth Bridge’ with capitals, it’s impossible to be sure if they think there are at least three others, or not. Just because there are capital letters doesn’t mean they don’t think it’s a number: Third Street is a proper noun, after all. Nevertheless, there are plenty of hits for ‘Firth of Fourth Bridge’, which suggests no numerical assumptions.

But when ‘fourth bridge’ is written all in lower case I think it’s reasonable to assume that this has an whiff of the eggcorn, or is it of the spellcheck? Unfortunately there’s only one instance of ‘like painting the fifth bridge’ and none of ‘like painting the third bridge’.

(Apparently the Forth Bridge has been painted with a special coating that doesn’t need repainting)

Last edited by JuanTwoThree (2010-09-04 14:41:35)

On the plain in Spain where it mainly rains.



#2 2010-09-04 15:05:47

From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: Painting the fourth bridge

I agree – charming indeed. If having to paint one bridge over and over is a big, continuous job, imagine how bad it would be with four bridges in your purview.

The explanation was actually needed in my case, at least – I’ve never heard of the expression (or to be honest, of the bridge). The Fortean Times has a brief “mythbuster” entry on this phrase, where they explain that the bridge isn’t actually continuously repainted, as JuanTwoThree noted. The article ends with a comment on the US equivalent:

In America, incidentally, the equivalent expression is “like painting the Golden Gate Bridge.” … ridge.html

I was a bit surprised by this – I’ve used “like painting the Golden Gate Bridge” as a simile, but I can’t recall having heard or seen anyone else use it. (And I live in Northern California.) But Google assures me that I was neither the first nor the last to use the phrase.

Here, at least, the ongoing painting isn’t an urban legend. The Bridge Authority itself notes that “continuous touch up” of the Golden Gate is now necessary, and I remember seeing a TV documentary on the maintenance crews who spend nearly every workday high up on the Bridge. If anyone’s really interested in the history of the painting of the Golden Gate, here you go:

Painting the Bridge is an ongoing task and the primary maintenance job. The Bridge paint protects it from the high salt content in the air, which rusts and corrodes the steel components. Many misconceptions exist about how often the Bridge is painted. Some say once every seven years, others say from end to end each year. Actually, the Bridge was painted when it was originally built with a red lead primer and a lead-based topcoat. For the next 27 years, only touch up was required. By 1968, advancing corrosion sparked a program to remove the original paint and replace it with an inorganic zinc silicate primer and vinyl topcoats. The topcoat was changed to acrylic emulsion in 1990 to meet air quality requirements. The original program was completed in 1995 with continuous touch up on areas with the most severe erosion. … gPaint.php

[The latter URL also tells you how you can get the same shade of “International Orange” used on the bridge for your own home. But stay calm, everybody—let’s not crash their site with a virtual stampede.]

Last edited by patschwieterman (2010-09-04 15:15:16)



#3 2019-04-28 03:16:39

From: Spain
Registered: 2009-08-15
Posts: 440

Re: Painting the fourth bridge

So it was me that came up with this last time!

A bit like painting the 4th bridge, as soon as we stop on one site we have to start all over again at a different one!

It is like painting the 4th bridge. You adjust one, work your way round and find that the first one need adjusting again

It’s a large grand building and I imagine up keep is similar to painting the 4th bridge

Owning a 911 is like painting the 4th bridge.

Why didn’t I look for these nearly ten years ago?

On the plain in Spain where it mainly rains.



#4 2019-05-16 09:06:33

David Bird
From: Montréal, QC
Registered: 2009-07-28
Posts: 1627

Re: Painting the fourth bridge

Diagram for the calculation of the problem, (b) optimal solution of the problem, (c) optimized configuration formed by concatenating basic modules and (d) the First of Forth Bridge, built 1883–1890 as an example of the topology optimization presented in [Gil and Andreu, 2001].
engineering article

Unfortunately, no hits for “first of four bridge”.



#5 2019-05-31 15:38:54

From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2317

Re: Painting the fourth bridge

Possibly purposeful? In the comments section @ a bridge modelling site ; where the Forth bridge is referred to, spelled correctly both times.

fav for the first of fourth bridge!

fav for the comment: clever if purposeful, serendipitous if not.

*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)



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