I have one more question concerning Lucy Kellaway’s 2012 Golden flannel Award .

The another contender of the Preposition Award was a usage of against.

The first was shown to advantage recently in a statement from Lloyds: “We have made substantial progress against our strategic objectives”, which suggests the bank is moving in the wrong direction.

This usage of against sounds completely wrong to me. Do you think this is deliberate ? If so, what is the intension of the author ?

  • "To be content with what we at present know, is, for the most part, to shut our ears against conviction" - Theodore Alois Buckley – Alberto Aug 10 at 11:12

I'm just trying to make sense of the sentence while agreeing it's ambiguous.

Though the usage of 'against' does seem wrong in this context, you could look at this sentence from a statistical/data-representation point of view, where progress is marked in a column next to the parameter 'strategic objectives'. That way, progress against strategic objectives doesn't seem that wrong. It is fairly commonplace to say 'put a checkmark against so-and-so in your to-do list'. I'm just trying to explain how this usage would have been thought of.


This use of against is not in ODO, but OED has

A. prep.
I. Expressing motion towards.
1. b. In a direction facing; towards, forward to, so as to meet.

While it is counterintuitive, the use of against in "progress against our objectives" = "progress to meet our objectives" fits this definition. Apparently against has been used in this way since the thirteenth century.

  • 1
    I wonder if definition 9c mightn’t be more relevant: ‘Indicating a thing to which reference is made in order to verify or measure something else.’ Either way, another own goal from Ms Kellaway. – Barrie England Jan 15 '13 at 12:17
  • 1
    @BarrieEngland Indeed: I only went down the entry as far as I thought was necessary! – Andrew Leach Jan 15 '13 at 12:25
  • AndrewLeach and @BarrieEngland, thank you for answering my questions. I'm beginning to think that she might not be pointing out thier grammatical error. She usually attacks people when she sences their "arrogance and cheesiness" in their way of language usage. Don't you find those kind of thing in the sentences she picked up ? It's difficult for me to feel those nuances since I am not an English speaker. – Aki Jan 15 '13 at 16:03
  • @Aki. No, I don't find that in either case. It looks as if she was short of material for an article. – Barrie England Jan 15 '13 at 16:25

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