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What is meant by along?

This is taken from an article at NY Times.

Ms. Markel also was the most reluctant participant in the bailouts first of Greece and then of Ireland, as she tried to calm anger over what Germans see as a need to bail out their profligate neighbors.

But after months of feeling dragged along by the crisis, Ms. Merkel in February 2011 made a remarkable about face, declaring her support not only for propping up the euro but creating a more closely integrated economic system.

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I take it you understand the meaning of "dragged" well enough, and that you really are simply asking what "along" is doing there. IMHO, the answer is "very little". But people often say "dragged along" where simply "dragged" has exactly the same meaning. Also, per my comment to @simchona's perfectly accurate answer, it explicitly forces the "pulled away from existing position" meaning, rather than "hindered from freely moving from existing position". –  FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 1:44
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Most dictionaries don't include the phrase drag along, although along is often used with drag. To be dragged along means:

[TRANSITIVE] to pull someone strongly or violently when they do not want to go with you drag someone along/to/into something: Xavier grabbed his arm and dragged him over to the window.

So Ms. Markel is feeling like the crisis is pulling her when she doesn't want to go.

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I think the truth is that "along" doesn't really mean much at all in OP's context. It's just that "dragged" on its own might be open to the misinterpretation that Merkel was being dragged back from some other course of action she wanted to pursue. Drag can mean hinder, hold back as well as pull [forward], so all the "along" does here is make sure we take the intended meaning. –  FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 1:15
    
@FumbleFingers I don't agree. I think that dragged along is a very specific phrase (or at least it has a very specific connotation), which is why it can be used here figuratively without further explanation. –  Jeremy Sep 8 '11 at 1:21
    
@Jeremy: So do you think usages like this poor woman being "dragged by a truck" are somehow different? Or defective phrasing? I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the word "along" being used - just that it really doesn't add much to the meaning. –  FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 1:34
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@FumbleFingers You don't use "dragged along" when someone is physically dragged, in my experience, so that usage is right. I definitely agree that the phrases can be interchangeable, but I also think that "drag along" conjures up a certain image of a defeated person unwillingly doing something he rather not. –  Jeremy Sep 8 '11 at 1:40
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If a person drags you along, they may not necessarily have grabbed your arm and led you from place to place. However, you might say ...

My wife dragged me along to the mall.

which indicates that the speaker didn't want to go to the mall, but the wife forced him to by generally badgering him until he gave in.

The crisis is dragging along Merkel, which means that Merkel's actions (for months) are being forced by the crisis, rather than what she wants to do. This paints a nice picture of a generally undesirable situation that Merkel eventually ignores, deciding instead to prop up the euro which is not necessarily a wise economic move during such a crisis.

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...and in your particular example, I bet no-one would even notice if you discarded the word "along". –  FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 1:35
    
Please fix the misspellings (Angela Merkel's surname has no a's in it) and change "he" to "she". –  jwpat7 Sep 8 '11 at 4:29
    
@jwpat7 Thanks for letting me know. –  Jeremy Sep 8 '11 at 5:50
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To understand "dragged along", we need to look at the context, which is the previous paragraph in this case:

Ms. Markel also was the most reluctant participant...

As you can see, Ms. Markel, did not like the idea of bailing out Greece and Ireland. This went on for several months, that is, she was being "dragged along" for several months. This means that although she was averse to the idea, because the majority of the people desired to bailout Greece and Ireland, she had to follow the majority.

Let's state that gain. "She did not like the idea, but had no choice, but follow the idea, because the majority wanted a bailout. Thus, she was being "dragged along"."

This phrase is used to reinforce how "reluctant" Ms. Markel was.

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