The English language is confusing to say the least. It doesn’t help matters that Rap and Hip Hop artists are constantly coming up with new meanings for and new ways to use old words. These “new words” trickle out to be used in our easily influenced mainstream society. If you don’t know the meaning or proper response to a current turn of phrase you are considered unhip… clueless… not-fly enough…dorky (or whatever the hell word would mean un-cool this week). Of course, in turn, those with a trendy tongue come across as babbling idiots to those who are classically educated and literarily fluent.

To be fair, technically most words are “old” with their meanings and definitions set in stone and they could probably use a bit of refreshment. But why not come up with new words instead of raping the dictionary? We pause for a moment of clarification. “Raping” is the verbal usage of rape, as in forced sexual activity against another will. “Rapping” is the verbal usage of rap, as in speaking rhymed words with rhythm and a back beat. An excellent example of how confusing the English language can be with the placement of an additional letter “p” as well as one of how far we are heading off subject…

Though rap music does have a heavy impact on a modern and rapidly changing lingo, rappers are not the first to twist a term. It’s interesting to note how some words and phrases we casually use on a regular basis bear no resemblance or hold the same meaning as they did when they were first conceived. Some fall onto the total polar opposite side of the spectrum. Case in point the metaphorically used, visually aided term “don’t burn your bridges!” When this phrase was first coined it meant the exact opposite and was to be taken quite literally.

Actually it began as the negative of the well-worn expression, “burn one’s bridges.” That expression, in turn, is a somewhat more modern version of what ancient armies, (those of the Roman Empire in particular), were said to do when invading hostile territories. During ancient times of war, when armies crossed a river to invade a new land or territory, the commanding generals would order the bridges burned after crossing. This was done in order to ensure that their troops couldn’t and wouldn’t retreat. With all venues of escape eliminated they had to fight just to save their own lives.

When you think about it that is pretty f***ed up! Soldiers backed against a raging river, forced to fight to their deaths over some dictator’s mindless campaign of violence and property rights. It’s a win or die situation. History books would be a lot more interesting and personably factual if they would tell the exploits of the few remaining soldiers and their actions when it became obvious they were fighting a losing battle. Did they fight and die needlessly till the last man, for fear of being branded a deserting coward? Or did some of them decide “Oh screw this!” and take their chances against the river’s current? Hmmm, get chopped up and die slowly by the sword or maybe drown? Whichever decision they made it’s certainly served to send us reeling way off track… again.

With the passage of war and time the phrase of “don’t burn your bridges” overrode its positive and questionable insane counterpart. Military leaders realized that keeping an open route for retreat allowed for regrouping and fresh strategies. He who fights and runs away can live to fight another day.

As military personnel returned to civilian life and took up regular jobs, quite often they brought some ideals they acquired during time served. The concept of not burning one’s bridges was such. It took on a new meaning and soon became a staple bit of logical advice shared throughout the workplace.

When taking a promotion, transferring to a different department or branch or even in leaving one job to go to one better, co-workers and friends (those two can at times be the same) will oft encourage you to keep your bridges intact. Unless it’s a hostile departure or you are 100% certain you will never tread those floors again, it’s best to leave on good terms. You never know when a strategic retreat may be necessary and in your best interest. So don’t flip the bird and slam the door on your way out.

Now, maintaining a bridge’s integrity is good advice whether it be an act of war or of employment. This meaning to not sever the ties you have made and leave an open and welcome avenue available should the enemy or unemployment gain the upper hand. But what about our personal lives? What about the bridges we build between friends, loved ones, family, lovers, enemies and strangers? The first three aren’t always one in the same and the last three can be all inclusive, so how does it all fit into our architectural psychology? Tune in next week to find out.

Next week: Build, Burn, Rebuild, Blow-up!

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Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya!