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Re: Line up behind

Posted by Word Camel on January 11, 2002

In Reply to: Line up behind posted by Orbit on January 11, 2002

: Hi, I would appreciate if you could explain me the meaning of this phrase: "line up behind" (the context is below)

: Had the opposition failed to unite and line up behind Kostunica in the presidential elections of September 2000, the credibility of the main opposition parties and their leaders in particular would have been damaged beyond repair.

The meaning simple. To line up behind someone is to lend him your support and/or accept his leadership.

I'm less sure of its origns, but I think there are two reasonable possiblities.

One enduring feature of legislatures is the tendency for members sharing the same political outlook or party affiliation to physically sit together, often behind the leadership. The expressions "left wing" and "right wing" have their origins in the physical arrangement of the Assembly formed in the French revolution. In Britain, opposing parties sit on opposite sides of the House of Commons with the leaders in front and other party members distributed behind according to responsiblilty and influence - with "backbenchers" being the least powerful. To "line up behind" uses the metaphor of physical proximity to indicate a closeness of belief or resolve. It implies organization and some practical outcome as opposed to mere affinity.

The other possible explanation may come from team sports in which opposing sides face up against one another under the leadership of a captain. The only sport I can think of where teams literally line up behind their captain is a tug of war - and I'm not even sure that qualifies as a sport.

I think the first explanation is most likely, especially in tthe context of the quote you provided.