Cross that bridge when one comes to it is an idiom that dates to the 1800s. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom cross that bridge when one comes to it, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
The expression cross that bridge when one comes to it means to not worry about a problem until it arises; to address something only once it has actually happened; to not waste energy on planning for something that may never occur. The phrase cross that bridge when one comes to it may be traced directly to The Golden Legend, a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1851: “Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it, is a proverb old and of excellent wit.” Though Longfellow refers to the phrase as an old proverb, it is not prevalent in the literature until after the turn of the twentieth century.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” Leach said when asked his thoughts about a forfeit equaling a loss. (Clarion Ledger)
“If the opposite becomes the reality, then we cross that bridge when we come to it.” (Trinidad and Tobago Newsday)
When asked if Caruccio would take on this role as a permanent position, she said, “It’s a great question — right now I’m completely focused on getting us open and welcoming students back … and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” (Cavalier Daily)