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Multiple meanings

Posted by R. Berg on February 28, 2002

In Reply to: To get ahead posted by ESC on February 28, 2002

: : I'm a little confused when I look closely at the common north american expression "to get ahead". I believe it could mean one of three things. It could mean to progress in life. It could mean to rise up beyond household costs, to stay out of debt. Or it could mean to get out ahead of the pack, to outdo your neighbors or social circle. Which is the main meaning?

: I think it's a more modest goal than having way more than the neighbors. To me it means getting some "extra" money saved after living expenses (rent, food, etc.) are paid. If you "get ahead" you have a nest egg so you don't have to live "from paycheck to paycheck."

Looks as if opinions differ on what the primary meaning is (see ESC's answer, above, and my answer, posted separately). You might get an even greater range if you asked more people.
The American Heritage Dictionary gives two phrases:
GET AHEAD. To be successful; attain prosperity.
GET AHEAD OF. To pass or surpass; outstrip.

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