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To quote Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the Groucho Marx character in the film Horse Feathers, “I don’t know what they have to say, it makes no difference anyway, whatever it is, I’m against it.”

I’m writing this in October of 2013. There is now a Democratic President, Barak Obama, in the White House in the country to the south of mine (I’m Canadian). Professor Wagstaff sounds a lot like the Republican Party of today when they are talking about anything President Obama proposes, doesn’t he? The Republicans don’t bother listening. They don’t bother thinking. Whatever it is, they’re against it.

To be fair, there are many instances of that sort of behavior in Canadian politics as well.

There must be a more rational way to do politics. And whatever it is, I doubt I’d be against it.

That was longish introduction to the word against, wasn’t it? One of the word’s meanings, the one referenced in the previous three paragraphs, is synonymous with “opposed.”

But that’s not the only meaning.

Against can also mean adjoining. For instance, “She leaned up against him for support. In a reversal of the usual male/female stereotypes, he charged her with assault.”

You might also use against to mean “in contrast to.” An example of this usage would be, “This haute couture blouse sells for $250 against the $3 in labor and materials that it cost to make it using child labor in a sweatshop somewhere in Asia. Blood-sucking, money-grubbing bastards.”

I’m, a strong believer in free enterprise and individual rights and freedoms, but there must be a more equitable way of doing business that will still deliver a fair return to company shareholders. Again, whatever it is, I doubt that I’d be against it.

Against can also mean “in preparation for.” You can, for example, save against a rainy day. Now that I’ve said that, you do, I assume, realize that it is merely a figure of speech. If you save against a rainy day you aren’t required to spend all of it on the first day with lots of precipitation, nor do you have to wait until that day to spend it. But you can if you want to. It’s your money.

In another of its definitions, against means in the opposite direction. “Swimming against the current” is an example of this usage. Occasionally, or in some cases more than occasionally, it seems that not only are you swimming against the current, but the current is supernaturally strong. Life’s like that sometimes. Get used to it.

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