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that escalated quickly

What does that escalated quickly mean?

The phrase that escalated quickly is often used when a scenario goes from relatively calm or innocuous to out of hand and intense.

Where does that escalated quickly come from?

The definitive origin of the phrase comes from the 2004 film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The eponymous character says, “Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.” Here, he’s referencing a brawl that he and his coworkers had with a rival news station earlier in the film. His nonchalant tone makes it seem like no big deal, which is what makes the scene funny.

In August of 2012, the phrase suddenly became a tremendously popular Google search. One could say it escalated quickly. The phrase’s viral success could possibly be attributed to YouTuber Niamh Joyce uploading a clip of the scene that the quote is taken from in April 2011. A few months after it was posted, a popular meme image macro of Ron Burgundy with the quote “Well, that escalated quickly” was born and became a hit online. The macro was used regularly on Reddit, Tumblr, and FunnyJunk.

A few things to note…

The phrase often appears in memes and GIFs. The typical usage deviates from the original quote in that it’s “Well, that escalated quickly” instead of “Boy, that escalated quickly.” The most popular version of the meme is a picture of Ron Burgundy from the scene the quote is taken from, with the not-so-faithful quote overlaid on top. This macro is usually placed next to an outrageous text chain or a ridiculous set of images that feature a situation escalating suddenly.

Still, that escalated quickly is also used outside the context of memes and GIFs. People use it as a standalone text phrase in the same context of the image, with the understanding that the reader will get the reference. As standalone text, that escalated quickly can often be found as a title of an article that details a situation that quickly got out of hand.” For example, in January 2017 The Portland Mercury published an article titled “Well, That Escalated Quickly: How A Portland Cop’s Brief Misconduct Quietly Became a War Over Police Accountability.”

The phrase can also be used as the title of a list of memes or pictures, such as in The Huffington Post’s “Well, That Escalated Quickly: 15 Things That Went From Zero to WTF (Photos).”

For example…

“Deadspin replied to [Ted] Cruz, ‘eat (expletive).’ In turn, Cruz responded with a ‘Well that escalated quickly’ GIF from the movie ‘Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy.’”

Ryan Gaydos, “Cruz tweets 'proof' he plays basketball, wins brief social media spat,” Fox News January 25, 2017

“Well, that escalated quickly. Funny, I don't feel annihilated. @daily_star do I intimidate you ?”

@lilyallen Twitter (March 29, 2017)

“was looking at photos of puppies to calm down and suddenly found myself looking at photos of hot guys. well, that escalated quickly”

Mika @yoohoOMika Twitter (November 13, 2014)

This is not a formal definition of that escalated quickly like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of that escalated quickly that will help you expand your word mastery.