Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Escalating confusion

A few days ago, I took my MacBook power adaptor to Apple Service Centre to replace the wire which has become frayed.  I was told that the warranty did not cover such a damage, which was fine.  But the helpful man at the counter who spoke with a Filipino accent told me that he would try to "escalate to Apple but there is no guarantee".  I asked him to repeat what he said, which he did.  "We will escalate to Apple but there can be no guarantee that Apple will replace the adaptor".   I was tempted to ask him what one did to Apple when one escalated but I brushed it aside.  After leaving my adaptor at the Apple Service Centre, I was given a Service Report.  Here it is.

And there I have it in black and white.  "Will try to escalate to Apple..."

I racked my brains for a word that sounded like "escalate" but which carried the connotation of "appeal" but I could not think of anything close.

A few days later, I received an email informing me that the "escalation" was unsuccessful.  No, I'm only joking; the email made no mention of the word "escalate".  This afternoon I called at the Service Centre and this time, I was served by a Chinese-looking man who I thought was Singaporean.  But when he spoke, I could detect a strong Filipino accent.  He said they had escalated to Apple but Apple was unable to allow a replacement.  Again, I asked him to repeat himself because this was a different person.  He obliged me and again, he used the word "escalate".

I'm now convinced "escalate" used in that sense is a Filipino word which means to appeal to a higher authority.  Who could have started using the word in that sense in the first place?  I tried searching google but it led to nothing.  I then gave it a thought and I came up with a brilliant idea. I don't claim to be an expert on Filipino English etymology but if you are familiar with the ways of the Church and Filipinos are religious folks, you will understand how a word like "escalate" can take on such a meaning.

To appeal to a higher authority is in itself vaguely religious.  And we all know that religions thrive on multi-syllabic words which give an appearance of authority.  Few words in religion are under three syllables in length.  We genuflect, we venerate and we supplicate.  So, when a Filipino appeals to a higher authority within his company, he does not merely speak to his boss; he escalates to his superior.

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