‘Ramping up’ goes rampant

The World Today Published 1 June 2020 Updated 28 September 2020 1 minute READ

If there has been one phrase that has transferred from the TV comedy series The Office to the government during the coronavirus crisis, it has been ‘ramp up’.

Every minister who has come to the socially-distanced lectern in No 10 to speak solemnly to the nation about government efforts – variously herculean, straining every sinew, moving heaven and earth and whatever it takes – has used the term.

The government was ramping up production of ventilators – until it turned out that they weren’t needed. Then they were ramping up tests and testing. They were ramping up the supplies of protective equipment.

They were ramping up the recruitment of contact tracers. And then they were ramping up tests again. As a piece of business jargon it is not as ridiculous as a sea change or a quantum leap, all ways of suggesting dramatic improvement, yet none really works at the level of metaphor.

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