Posted by Lewis on June 05, 2003
In Reply to: Ratchet Things Up a Notch or Two posted by TheFallen on June 04, 2003
: : : Hi,
: : : What dose this phrase mean?
: : : Thanks in advance.
: : To increase the amount or intensity of something just a little. (A ratchet mechanism makes physical things change by small steps rather than smoothly and continuously.)
: Absolutely. The other main feature of a ratchet is that it is a mechanism based in its most simple form around a rotating toothed cog with one-way tooth (called apparently a pawl) preventing any backwards motion or slippage - it's the teeth in the cog that give rise to the "notch or two" part of the expression. Therefore any intensity or tension added by using a ratchet will not be released - you'd typically use a ratchet mechanism to tighten a long cable or wire.
: It's this idea of increasing the pressure or tension in a situation that is at the heart of the idiom.
A ratchet is a device that allows one-way increases - eg a ratchet screwdriver or spanner allows the user to advance the screw/nut without risk of it slipping back whilst a fresh turn is made.
To "ratchet up the pressure" as a metaphor is to exert force one way without compromise or release.