Patent diagram of the first escalator (“revolving stairs”) – 1859

This one got me. I admit it. I looked it up during edits on a WhiteFire book because I wasn’t sure it was quite early enough in the sense used. And what do I find? A surprise!

Escalate is new. Darn new. As in, from 1922–and that’s in the literal sense. It’s actually a back-formation of escalator (from 1900). Before that, the verb had been escalade. Not so different a word, right? Except that escalade has exactly one meaning: “to use ladders to scale a fortified wall.” Yeah, um…not how I use escalate!

So what of that meaning? The “to raise,” or “to intensify” meaning? Well…that didn’t come around until the Cold War! 1959 to be exact. I had no idea it was so new!

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