Growing Up With Bridge Lingo
When Meckstroth doubles, the game becomes rich in overtricks.
by Katie Coopersmith © 2017 Great Bridge Links
“Two no trump.”
“Hmmm…ace queen high.”
Sound like bridge jargon to you? Well, it is. But for me, it was also – to a large extent – part of the soundtrack of my childhood.
My parents are both bridge players, you see. Actually, ‘players’ might be an understatement: they’re bridge fanatics. They met at a bridge tournament (I know, adorable) in 1982, quickly became each other’s partners both at the table and in life, and embarked upon a lifetime of reading Bridge World at the breakfast table, meeting with friends for dinner and cards, and yelling at each other from their respective upstairs and downstairs computers while playing an online match.
They took a break from the bridge world for several years after I was born (what can I say, I guess I’m just as stimulating as grand slams and the intricacies of bidding!), but they returned to the table when I was seven or eight years old. As a result, I was dragged along to many of the aforementioned dinner party-bridge game hybrids. Usually I’d just read my book, but sometimes I’d get to fill in for the dummy when a player was in the bathroom. This was my first foray into the vast and overwhelming world of bridge lingo. I loved getting to say (or rather, yell) “PASS!” each time it was my turn, and I soon learned to ape my parents’ card jargon…sort of.
You see, I’d learned a seemingly never-ending list of bridge terms early on (“finesse,” “double,” “redouble,” etc.), but, much to my parents’ chagrin, I have absolutely no interest in learning the game itself. As a result, all I’m able to do is cobble together these bizarre terms into nonsensical sentences that my parents think are hilarious.
One particular story that my mom likes to tell is the time when earnest 11-year-old me said, with a big smile and a deadpan tone, “When Meckstroth doubles, the game becomes rich in overtricks.” I’d been hearing my dad talk about dynamite American bridge duo Meckstroth and Rodwell, you see, and all I can assume is that I was basically a human sponge for all of the language I was hearing.
If bridge talk isn’t quite technically a language in and of itself, it’s a dialect at the very least. It has its own conventions, its own humour, and a never-ending supply of code words. Wikipedia’s “Glossary of contract bridge terms” contains a list of words and phrases that would take most people days to work through. It’s so impossible to understand for those who don’t play the game that I always kept a book around even into my adolescence and young adulthood so that I’d have a way to tune out when my parents inevitably began ‘talking bridge’ around me. They’d always apologize when they caught themselves doing it, and I definitely don’t fault them for it – I can tell just how much fun it is.
It’s certainly worth noting, however, that anyone dreaming of learning the game of bridge is going to be faced not just with the task of learning an intensely complicated card game, but also with learning a whole new language. What’s more, I would imagine that learning bridge lingo would likely bring with it some if not all of the benefits of bilingualism, which include faster stroke recovery, delayed onset of dementia, improved empathy, and increased grey matter.
As Charlemagne said, “to have another language is to possess a second soul” – so despite the work that it may take to learn how to ‘talk bridge,’ it’s probably worth it.