balloon goes up, the

the balloon goes up

The situation becomes serious, critical, chaotic, or troublesome. Often used in the past tense ("the balloon went up"). If we don't get that shipment by Friday, the balloon goes up, and we lose the account. He tweeted it, and the balloon went up.
See also: balloon, goes, up

balloon goes up, the

The undertaking begins, as in He's going to announce his candidacy for mayor-the balloon goes up on Monday. This expression comes from World War I, when British artillery sent up a balloon to notify gunners to open fire, this visual signal being more reliable than courier or telephone. It was soon transferred to signal other kinds of beginning. [1915]
See also: balloon, goes