I recently created a business card combining my passions for editing and lifting. I called my freelance business “heavylifting editorial services,” and I set the phrase raising the bar for communication above a logo of a barbell. But I guess raising the bar has its origins in track and field (high jump, vaulting), so I’ve been debating whether or not the barbell image is an appropriate twist on the saying or an outright misinterpretation of it. Should I drop the barbell (I’m so pun-ny) or should I drop the saying? But before I even picked up on this mix-up of imagery, I wondered about the correct preposition to use. Do we raise the bar on something, for something, or even possibly of something? I’ve seen all three prepositions used in informal writing. If I was about to print a business card describing myself as a freelance editor, well, this was a usage question of epic proportions.
Choosing the correct preposition is often difficult. The Chicago Manual of Style offers the example of being smitten by someone as opposed to being smitten with them — ouch vs. xoxo. Or what about being undaunted by the obstacles life throws at you vs. being undaunted in the lifting of a heavy load. And when do I admit (no preposition) my insecurity about lifting the load vs. why do I admit insecurity into my thoughts to begin with?
When in doubt, it’s a matter of looking it up. Words into Type has a fourteen-page list of prepositions for your entertainment. (Of course, I can’t consult WiT right now because I had to return it to the library yesterday without renewing it because someone else had it on hold. Someone always wants me books.) CMoS is no slouch on the subject either, but I couldn’t find the answer to my original query about lifting the bar. The question is more about the origin of the saying than anything else. It seems to me that the bar gets raised for athletes during competition, so for now I’m making no changes.