Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 22 03:27:55 UTC 2009

I was not near a computer last night, when I heard the statement, and
did not write it down. As I result, I had a mistaken impression that the
use of "escalate" by someone on ESPN Sportscenter referred to
"friendship" between Carmelo Anthony (CA) and Kobe Bryant. And
escalating friendship would indeed be something odd.

Turns out, you can find almost anything on-line and the clip below
revealed the actual language. The reporter was Shelly Smith.

(1) "So, for now, forget about LeBron and Kobe and feast on slightly
less height, but no less fierce match-up between Kobe and Carmelo--one
born out of the friendship forged during the Olympics and destined to
escalate as the Western Finals progress."

The clip starts at about 6:11 and the actual phrase appears at 5:59. It
may not be an "escalating friendship", but an "escalating match-up"--or
whatever is actually referred to--may be just as intriguing.

(2) Contrast this with a different use of "escalate"-- in a related
context!--two and a half years ago.

"We were just friends at first. We were just friends for a really long
time, and then the friendship escalated into something more."

(From RMN interview with CA's fiancee)

I see (2) as the "standard" use, even if the meaning is really closer to
tr.v. "evolved/developed". But the meaning in (1) is completely
different, perhaps close to "intensify" (although it *can* be
interpreted as intr.v. "evolve"!).

Further search found a couple of other interesting pairs (e.g., tr/intr:
"the frakas escalated" vs. "aimed to ... escalate confrontation"), but
nothing that I would classify as "odd". Of course, my judgment on such
things is occasionally off and there may be nothing generally odd about
the original use of "escalate" that prompted this post. But it grabbed
my attention and I am having a hard time letting it go.


The American Dialect Society -

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