how to escalate a problem

Chris Waigl cwaigl at FREE.FR
Wed Aug 31 18:03:06 UTC 2005

Jonathan Lighter wrote:

>So "escalating" a disaster, like the hurricane, is a good thing.  What about "the disaster is escalating" (about to be reviewed by people in charge) ?
>Such speakers must think that when the Vietnam War was "escalated," it was "bucked" to a higher authority.  (Or "hire authority," as it soon will be.)
I'm quite sure I first saw this in German[1], and it was in a context
like this one, from U Harvard's IT department:

If your Ethernet connection does not work anymore, please try a few
steps before escalating the problem.

   1. Restart your computer.
   2. Check the physical Ethernet (cable) connection into your computer
      and into the jack.[...]


It took me a while to decide that they meant "... before bothering tech
support with your problem" and not "... before you make it any worse
than it already is". A rather mismatched metaphor, in my humble opinion.

But there are examples where I can see how this came about, for example

I have already suggested contacting other dealers and supposedly they
did and still could not get a definite answer as to why this is happening.
I plan to nicely suggest contacting FNA for a solution and if I get the
car back and again get another error in a few days I will send it down
to Sheltons in Ft. lauderdale.
I also have to head guys name and number to call in FNA if it is not
resolved. I want to give them enough time to try before escalating the
problem, but I will not let it stay there for two months like the other
550 there.

Going over the head of the local people and talking to those higher-up
in the company hierarchy is probably bad news for the lower-level
employees, but good for the customer, who can hope that the problem is
going to be resolved that way.

Chris Waigl

[1] There is something German-native-ish about Arnold's initial example.
It's the sentence "As soon as they come in this morning they will start
to look into this and hopefully resolve the issue by the end of today."
Nothing about it is wrong or even unidiomatic, but I think many English
native speakers would choose "start VB-ing" here. "Start/stop" + VB-ing
vs. + to VB generates much hesitation for German speakers (see the
subtleties concerning "I stopped to look at the flowers" and "I stopped
looking at the flowers").

I'm probably wrong about this, though, and the Google hits in German and
English (the verb "escalate"/"eskalieren" behaves near-identically in
German and English) suggest that it is an Anglicism in German.

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