fetched up against/at

Discussion in 'English Only' started by redgiant, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Cambridge Dictionary gives the definition of "fetch up" as "to arrive somewhere, especially without intending to" (Cambridge Dictionary). I'm stuck on the use of "against" with "fetched up". Does "against" mean "in the background"? If that's the case, what do you think about the substitution of "fetched up at the back of the town's general store"?

    : Elizabeth crossed the expanse of open space as indifferently as she could, fighting the desire to run, feeling very relieved indeed when she fetched up against the back of the town’s general store.

    Source: Timepiece Heather, Albano

    Background: During the Battle of Waterloo, Elizabeth's companions were taken away by British soldiers and locked up in an inn they had taken over in a small town in the neighborhood of Waterloo. Disguised as a French boy, Elizabeth came to the town after a long walk through Sonian Forest. Contrary to her expectations, the town was eerily empty. She suspected that the inhabitants either fled from the war or were shut up behind barricade doors. Still, she couldn't shake off the feeling of eyes watching her, so she had to walk as indifferently as possible.
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    The substitution would work, but some of the literary import would, in my view, be lost.
    Saying that she 'fetched up against' in this context gives one more of an impression that she has flattened herself against the back wall of the store, increasing her invisibility, albeit only marginally.
  3. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    "At the back of the store" (depending on context, the area behind the store or the back part of the inside of the store) and "against the back of the store" (touching the back wall of the store) are quite different to me.
  4. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you Beryl and Myridon. In the succeeding paragraph, Elizabeth was pressing against the wall of the store to peep around the corner to survey the soldiers in front of the tavern. So, as you say, my substitution wouldn't work and would skip one of her actions in peeping.

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