Whoopi Goldberg turned heads recently when she appeared on "The View" wearing a burgundy hooded T-shirt with a bold statement printed across the front of it: "LET THE BRIDGES I BURN LIGHT THE WAY." You can see her in it here.

You are watching: May the bridges i burn light the way origin

The sweatshirt is no slouch. It"s made by uber-cool fashion brand Vetements and will run you a whopping $1,050. The item has been so popular that the label, which describes the runway collection where it first appeared as an exploration of "contemporary Americana with references to thrash metal and youth culture," describes it as their "cult sweatshirt." What you get: a cotton-blend jersey with shoulder pads -- in case, you know, you want to tackle somebody in it.


For Goldberg, it was a nod to the is-she-or-isn"t-she rumors swirling around her supposed departure from the popular all-ladies talk show. But for other fans of these luxury sweatshirts, it"s been a way to come across to the masses like a super feminist who doesn"t give a ... well, you know. The proclamation of burning bridges sounds like something, oh, Joan of Arc might say. In reality: Not exactly.


May the bridges you burn light the way, suggests Vetements. (Photo credit: Vetements)


It appears, as confirmed by The Grammarphobia Blog, that the quote was originally spawned on an episode of the Nineties young person soap opera, "Beverly Hills 90210." It was spoken by Dylan McKay, played by then-heartthrob Luke Perry, during an attempted intervention as he spun out of control. The 1994 episode was titled "Things That Go Bang in the Night," and is one in which we find Dylan "sinking deeper into depravity with hard drugs." Brandon Walsh, played by then-heartthrob Jason Priestley, shows up to try to stop Dylan"s destructive cycle.

To wit:

Brandon Walsh: Dylan, at this point in time, I"m just about the only friend you"ve got. You sure you want to do this? Push me away like you"ve done to everyone else?

Dylan McKay: Yeah! May the bridges I burn light the way!

In other words, if you want to know what you"re getting for your $1,050 sweatshirt, it"s a quote from a TV show that"s long since been cancelled.


Luckily, fans of the original scene can relive it on YouTube: "May the bridges I burn light the way!"


As the Grammarphobia Blog points out, the history of burning one"s bridges has a much longer backstory.

"Of course people have been burning bridges both literally and figuratively for quite a while. The figurative expression "to burn one"s bridges behind one" showed up in the late 19th century, according to citations in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The OED"s earliest example is from Mark Twain"s 1892 novel The American Claimant: "It might be pardonable to burn his bridges behind him."

The dictionary defines the expression as "to burn one’s boats," which is defined elsewhere in the OED as "to cut oneself off from all chance of retreat.""

In other words, it"s what you"re not supposed to do when you leave a job, but ... sometimes sweatshirts happen.


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Susannah Breslin

I cover the business of sex. I"ve written for The Atlantic, Harper"s Bazaar, Slate, Salon, and The Daily Beast. In 2008, TIME named me one of the year"s best bloggers. I"ve appeared on CNN, NPR, and "Politically Incorrect." To email me, click HERE. To subscribe to my newsletter, click HERE. This blog has been cited by The Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, ESPN, BuzzFeed, and Katie Couric.