Technnology is changing our language

It’s a clever and versatile word, is this word ‘click’ both as noun and verb. In both forms it refers to that noise that you hear when two pieces of metal fit into each other. For example when you turn the key in a lock or when you insert the metal end of the seat belt on your car into the slot that holds it firm. Some years ago just before it became compulsory for car drivers in the UK to wear seat belts there was an extensive publicity campaign to recommend people to do just that. I remember well dropping off my young son at nursery school during that time and as we said goodbye, he called out the slogan that was shown on TV - Remember, clunk, click every trip. This means shut the car door (clunk) and then put the seat belt in the slot (click) and do this every journey (trip). And on that occasion I did exactly that, mainly I admit to please him. Twenty minutes later on the way to work my car skidded on black ice. The car turned round to face oncoming traffic and was badly damaged.
Fortunately I wasn’t and I didn’t go through the windscreen, thanks to the seat belt. Another use of ‘click’ as a verb describes the idea of getting on well with someone usually after you have first met as in - We had only been talking together for a few minutes and we found that we had a lot in common - we clicked straightaway.
Now to come to what is going to be my main topic and that is the way words have taken on an additional meaning through the medium of technology and in particular in the world of computing. And what better way to illustrate that than our friend ‘Click’. This is what we have to do to our mouse (another new use) by pressing down on it or in some cases the computer instructs us to ‘double click’ in order to get more information. I often wonder what an aunt of mine would have made of the new technology if she were still with us. She never mastered how to use a small battery operated radio because she thought just one station was all that was available as the person who sold it to her had used this one station as an example of what the radio was capable of receiving. With her in mind I shall consider some of the words used in IT. ‘Browse’ is often used to mean - look through pages of a book or newspaper without paying too much attention and it follows that a browser is someone doing just that. But computing has taken on this word ‘browser’ to mean the method by which your computer can find information. ‘Drag’ in the first instance suggests pulling a heavy object along the ground but what the computer is telling you to do is to click on a word, reposition it in another place and then ‘drop‘ it there. ‘Surfing’ is a sport practised by agile young people as they ride on the top of waves at the seaside. But a far less energetic meaning is skipping from one site to another on the Internet. And in order to surf you have to use a search engine, not a mechanical one but a clever system that lets you look up material on a topic that interests you. What you have to be careful about is not letting your computer be attacked by horrible things like viruses, which will prevent it working properly. Afterwards you will have to debug your device or clean it with the help of your mouse. People can hack into your computer not of course with an axe but by means of viruses and thereby steal private information. When you see someone who clearly doesn’t want to be seen as they seem to be hiding in a suspicious way, you would describe them as ‘lurking’ and the person in question is called a ‘lurker’. Now in computing this isn’t really used to describe an underhand sort of behaviour. If you are looking at something on a website and you haven’t registered as a member, you would be a lurker. In other words you do not reveal your identity.
Of course this new technology doesn’t always borrow words that are already in use but has also created its own vocabulary. Let me impress you! ‘Dronevertising’ is how you advertise what you are selling by attaching the name of the product you want to sell, to a drone. ‘Duang’ is another word for extremely. ‘Farecasting’ is the method you use to find the best possible fare for your next flight. ‘Inculator’ is a device to help new businesses on their first steps. ‘Lookupable’ describes the idea that all words not in conventional dictionaries should be available for people to find their meaning. And what about ‘procrastatweeting’? This is where you spend too much time tweeting about a plan instead of putting it into practice.
What would my poor aunt have made of all that? I can imagine saying to her - ’I’ve just bought a new Mac (Apple Mackintosh computer)’ and she would probably say something like - ‘Good idea dear, now that the rainy season’s here’ assuming that I meant a mackintosh, rain coat. Goodness know how she would react to my comment - "I’ve got bluetooth now’. Probably she’d look worried and say - ‘Go and see a dentist as soon as you can, dear’.


What’s interesting is that around 1995 when Microsoft introduced their first operating system with a graphical interface the verb ‘click’ started being used in a new context. From now on computer users had an additional device to operate their machines: a mouse. So, the computer mouse was the first device you could use to click on icons with. Since then every computer user is familiar with the term ‘click’. There is a even a show by the BBC with that name.

However, when Apple launched their first iPhone in 2011 users for the first time could navigate content by tapping the screens of their phones. This technique didn’t produce the same clicking sound as a computer mouse which meant that you would no longer click on an icon, button, arrow, link or any other symbol but ‘tap’. So, when you use a smartphone or tablet or any other device with a touchscreen you don’t click but tap.

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