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My pet hates 15 – Just don’t ramp me up

An obscure expression has crept into general parlance and seems to be replacing perfectly adequate words for no reason whatsoever. I’m referring to ramp up as in bolster, strengthen or increase. When did two words become preferable to one?

I first came upon the verb in 2005 when I was editor of the global internal communications website at Reuters. A press release from the top and written by U.S. colleagues described how the company was planning to “ramp up” the roll-out of a new financial markets product. Perplexed but not allowed to edit the press release, I had to publish it without replacing the expression with something more understandable.

The expression is not listed in my copy of the Oxford Dictionary, which dates back to 2004. In it, the noun ramp is described in the first instance as “a slope or inclined plane, esp. for joining two levels of ground, floor etc”.

I thought about it the other day when I read in the London Times about the impending anniversary of the “Day of Rage” during the Bahrain riots. The Foreign Office was said to be “telling British nationals (in Bahrain) to be wary of protests being ramped up before February 14”.

What’s wrong with protests being increased or stepped up?

How about this headline I found on the Internet last week:
“Apple and Google ramp up proxy war”

Yes, the language is always evolving, but why should we replace tried and tested verbs with ambiguous synonyms that probably stem from jargon?

I welcome your comments.

Rolf Soderlind

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One comment on “My pet hates 15 – Just don’t ramp me up

  1. Half way through your post I was thinking about the need for the language to evolve. However, evolution should be for the better, not to generate confusion as this term does. I constantly hear colleagues saying: “The work is going to ramp up until the deadline”. I guess the right form should be: “The workload will increase towards the deadline.”

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