I’m still reading Richard Bachman’s The Long Walk. Today’s note comes from near the middle of the book. It’s a throwaway sentence that made me think of ghosts.
They passed through a wooden covered bridge, the planks rumbling and bumping under their feet.
I’m used to walking across bridges, not through them. Only phantoms walk through solid things (walls, fences, curtains at opera houses). People walk through space (doors, corridors). But covered bridges provide a linguistic challenge because they are, in effect, spaces. They’re analogous to hallways. Walking across a covered bridge would mean climbing onto its roof and walking across the roof. That’s not what Richard Bachman wanted to write. You could walk across the floor of a covered bridge, but you need that extra bit of information. Otherwise you’re walking across the whole of the bridge, which includes the roof. That said, we do walk through hallways as often as we walk across them, and neither word jars, so perhaps the same should hold true for covered bridges. We should be able to walk across them and through them and trust that context will eliminate the literal meaning of the sentence.
Or we could traverse. Traverse means “to pass or move over, along or through”. When in doubt, traverse—but traverse carefully.