just like witches at black masses

Does anyone else find it odd that we refer to activating a hyperlink in HTML, or an icon on a graphical desktop, as “clicking”? That we call the action by the noise the input device makes? I find it weird – not offensive, mind you, just deeply odd – that that evolved the way it did. I would never say, “Hey, could you go vreet-vreet this on the copier for me?” Or “Yeah, just hummmmmmmmmmmmm-BEEP-BEEP it in the microwave for thirty seconds on High.”

Everything else in the graphical metaphor we call an Operating System has a real world analog. Your “desktop” at home might have a stack of “folders” on it, which you could open to discover “documents” or close and arrange in “files.” But clicking doesn’t connect to any other real world behavior. I don’t push in on the spine of a book before taking it off the shelf. File clerks of a century past weren’t tapping twice on the cover of an account ledger before opening it, unless they had the palsy.

While the mood strikes me: I hate the word “blog.” I remember first seeing it a few years ago and praying it wouldn’t catch on. The word just sits there on the screen, stiff and ugly – the clumsy bl blend, the dissonant og on the end of it. If a two-year-old child kept mispronouncing “weblog,” that’s the noise I’d expect. To hear it coming from a supposedly literate adult irks me.

“Click” I just find weird, but “blog” turns my stomach.

And as long as I have you here: should I pronounce .gif like the peanut butter or like the space hippo? Does anyone else pronounce the word “MMORPG” so it rhymes with a certain Black Sabbath song? Why does it take longer to abbreviate “World Wide Web” than to say it? And why do all those kids on my block keep listening to that loud garbage music? You know the kind I mean.

My point: stop letting engineers name things.

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23 Responses

  1. Good points, man. You have them.

    I never really dedicated time to think about the ungood verbage that is thrown at us through that mix of innovation and lack of proper naming conventions.

  2. I say I’m going to zorch things when I put it in the microwave. But I’ve always considered that adorable.

  3. I guess you never had to walk people through the painful migration from DOS to Windows 3.x and then 95. When I worked in user support back in the dark ages of GUIs, I actually had to explain to people what that weird little rectangular thing with the wire and the buttons was. Telling people what “clicking” meant was actually quite painful, especially when it came to obtuse skills like right-clicking or double-clicking later on. At least the term “click” sounded innocuous enough where the people on the other end of the phone didn’t yell at me. I think it reminded them of camera terms in that you point and clicked at your target as though you were taking a picture.

    But what else would you call it? You can’t really say “mouse” over that link given that not everyone use a mouse for clicking, especially with laptops.

    You should have heard my metaphors in documentation to sending e-mail attachments and why Word files and the like expanded in size. “Imagine that you have to carefully package your document to make sure that it doesn’t get messed up when handled. That packaging is like MIME or UUencoding…” and so on.

  4. “I would never say, ‘Hey, could you go vreet-vreet this on the copier for me?'”

    I think you should. It would be fabulous.

  5. Squirrel – Zorching is adorable.

    Mark – I never did, no. But my family had a Tandy Color III for years before we upgraded to a Windows machine. I must have learned how to right-click at school, because I know we went years without a mouse. I remember struggling through Eye of the Beholder by memorizing keyboard commands instead of clicking on icons.

    Vickie – I will try to make fabulousness a priority.

  6. There are things that are otto motto pea-ically set up. Ringing someone or ringing someone up on the phone, beeping someone on their beeper.

    Of course, they sound a bit old fashioned now. When I tell people in my IT department that we need to stop using beepers, I say, “We are not cutting edge doctors from the 80’s.” And ringing someone on the phone…

    “I’ll just ring Suzanne and see if she can come over for bridge.”
    “Oh, please do. More tea?”

    (Old fashioned or British, I suppose.)

    With the proliferation of ringtones, the word is simply misplaced. I’m not going to say that I’ll “R. Kelly” someone or “Fergielicious” sombody, based on the song they’re using on their phone that week.

  7. I have seen cell phone plans with free calling on the same network advertised as “unlimited chirp.” So perhaps it’s more common than I think.

  8. I think we should, based on your analysis, replace “click” with “touch.” As in:

    ‘I touched the link and it took me to some porn site instead!’
    ‘No, don’t single touch. You have to double touch for it to open.’
    ‘How many touches did your site get this month?’
    and
    ‘You have to right touch for that function.’

  9. Hello, I’m a computer graphics professional and I say Space Hippo all the way for .gif!

  10. Jason – “We’re discounting some of the visits on your ad page this month as invalid touches. Probably caused by some automatic touching software.”

    Grenacia – Join the armada!

  11. A) Space Hippo

    B) I will now!

    C) Just call it “the net” or “the interwebs”.

    D) I blame their saggy pants.

  12. Kids can never figure out pants, as a general rule.

  13. “Why does it take longer to abbreviate “World Wide Web” than to say it?”

    You can always use the painful sounding “trip-dub” consolidation that my co-worker uses. As is in “trip-dub dot yahoo dot com”

  14. Don’t forget that the common masses tend to call the TV remote control the “clicker” – and that calling remotes “clickers” probably slightly predates the mouse itself, if my memory serves.

    I actually hate calling remotes “clickers” but it doesn’t bother me at all to say “click here”. What else are you going to say? “Activate that link?” That sucks. “Navigate here?” A click isn’t always navigation, sometimes it’s just selection. “Select that?” See above. “Click” works.

  15. Peanut butter.

  16. Jimbo: my wife calls it the “clicker”; I call it the “remote”. Maybe it’s a regional thang. And yeah, I’m guessing that the early remotes did make clicking noises when you used them.

    And, Perich, I’m pretty sure engineers weren’t the ones who came up with the “clicking” term–more likely it was the interface designers or even the marketroids.

    Even “activating a hyperlink” doesn’t ring true to my programmer’s ears. More like “Accessing a URL”. Imagine if we had stuck that in the user’s manual:

    “Access the URL by applying downward force on the left button of your computer’s pointing device.”

    Or: “Click on the link.”

    Which would you prefer?

  17. I called a remote a “tuner” until my freshman year of college, when my roommate pointed out how weird that was.

    Josh – “Trip dub” does sound painful. Like Massive Attack meets Jah Shaka or something.

    And it doesn’t bother me to say “click here” either. It’s just odd.

  18. i don’t know who that space hippo is 😡 but ffs, .gif uses the “g” sound from “good” and NOT the “j” sound from “jif.” if you say it like that, people ARE laughing at you behind your back. i’m a designer and i worked for a software company, just trust me.

    also, my mother does “zap” things in “the micro.” hm. anyway, world wide web now sounds ridiculously dated, but thankfully people aren’t having to say “www” much anymore either.

    can you tell me why “colonel” doesn’t even have an “r” in it? that word was the bane of my reading aloud in elementary school existence >:|

  19. I DID NOT ASK FOR *THOSE* SMILIES

    GOD DAMMIT TECHNOLOGY ARAGHHHHHH

  20. We should definitely not let the engineers name things. I’m pretty sure if it’d been up to them to give a name to what we now call “clicking”, though, it’d be something much more opaque.

    To Jimbo: I don’t think “clicker” is a universal synonym for “remote control.” I don’t remember ever calling it that growing up. Dialectal variation, woo!

  21. Steph – thank you for navigating us away from the mocking laughter.

    Erin – interesting. Could you display a web address for me to actuate my mouse cursor on?

  22. ps, “clicker” totally is a synonym for remote control, but i don’t know if maybe it’s a new england thing? i hear it pretty much constantly in places like southern ri where we get, erm, a little bit country and it’s all “PASS ME THE CLICKAH”

  23. […] page. Grandma: That’s certainly an unusual name. Why do they call it ‘blog’? Me: I don’t know. Grandma: So this is a place you can go on the Internet that activates blogs? Me: No, aggregates […]

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