Happily, the only pay that I get for noticing AmE/BrE differences is my Google ad income, so I am free to notice them on a strike day. That £4.50 per month will (N Amer & Irish colloquial, in this position) sure see me through the grim times. <subliminal>Click! Click! Click! This child needs shoes!</subliminal>
And what did I notice today? Well, this phrase in the BBC coverage of the strike, for one thing:
Hundreds of staff from the University of Sussex staged a strike in protest at job cuts, as students occupied a lecture theatre for an eighth day.In protest at? My first thought: 'Are the (AmE) copy-editors/(BrE) subeditors at the BBC on strike too?' My second thought: 'What can a quick corpus search tell me about this preposition choice?' A lot, as it turns out.
I used (as I usually do these days) Mark Davies' wonderful interface for the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and searched for in protest with six prepositions: at, against, of, over, to, and about. The last two only occurred at tiny rates in both corpora, so I haven't included them in the table below. These are the results, expressed as percentages within each dialect:
So, there you have it. In British English, one generally strikes in protest at something but in American, there is no clear preference for a particular preposition (unless I'm not thinking of it?). Personally, I'd edit my own writing toward(s) in protest against. As we were just discussing the other day, American English does seem to be more of-ridden than BrE.
But another interesting aspect of this story is that the American figures represent a lot less (or fewer, if you insist) data, in spite of the fact that COCA is four times bigger than BNC. Taking this into account, BrE uses in protest+PREPOSITION more than seven times more often than AmE does. So I thought: 'that must mean that AmE doesn't like to use protest as an abstract noun as much as BrE does, and so we tend to use the verb.' But searching the verb protest shows that AmE doesn't use that more than BrE does either (though the difference is not as stark as for the prepositional phrases I searched--in the BrE corpus it occurs 2427 times per million words, and in AmE it's 1968 per million). In all uses of the noun BrE uses it more (but only 1.38 times more, not the 7x more of the in protest phrases).
So, do the British have more to protest? Or do Americans prefer other ways of talking about protesting? I think I know the answer as far as higher education is concerned...