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"Let’s ‘Double-Click’ on the Latest Cringeworthy Corporate Buzzword:  You may want to examine or delve into the phrase, which has become pervasive in conference calls and grates on many; ‘It’s almost like a joke’", by Te-ping Chen and Nicholas G. Miller, WSJ (7/9/24)

One of the fastest-spreading corporate buzzwords in recent years, “double-click” is both polarizing and pervasive. Particularly on Wall Street, the figure of speech is now being used as a shorthand for examining something more fully, akin to double-clicking to see a computer folder’s contents. Some, like [Ruben] Roy, find the idiom obnoxious or twee. Double-click defenders say the phrase encourages deeper thinking.

Either way, it’s become a verbal tic du jour. Executives and analysts dropped double-click 644 times in corporate conference calls and events during the first half of the year, according to VIQ Solutions, up from 139 times in the same period of 2020.

“It’s almost like a joke. People are like, oh here we go with double-click,” says Roy, who’d been trying to avoid using the term when he accidentally let it slip. Colleagues, he says, haven’t let him forget it.

The new jargon makes Annie Mosbacher, an LA marketer, roll her eyes. 

“Can’t we just say ‘this is an area we need to focus on?’” she says. “We regurgitate this sort of lingo as though it means something, and usually it’s about trying to be impressive more than anything else.”

Not so, dissents Ruben Linder, who runs a San Antonio audio and video production business:

“The term is simple, but it’s really profound,” he says. He tries to carve out time to go to a cafe twice monthly with a notebook and engage in reflection.    

“I’ll double-click on my business, double-click on my life,” he says. “I double-click on everything now.”

I have to agree.  Metaphorically speaking, "double-clicking" is not the same as "double-checking", which I do hundreds of times a day.  I'm compulsive-obsessive about that, because I hate to lose things like my keys, my comb, my watch….

Tech-inflected buzzwords are especially apt to gain traction—think “network,” “bandwidth” or “take offline”—because they can sound smart or cutting-edge, says Doug Guilbeault, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business who has studied corporate jargon. 

The inventor of the literal double-click, former Apple designer Bill Atkinson, isn’t convinced. Reached while boating on a recent weekday, Atkinson, now retired, says he’s never heard anyone use double-click as a metaphor and would steer clear of such usage himself, preferring more straightforward language.

He adds that since inventing the function in 1979, he’s come to regret it. He now thinks an extra “Shift” button on the mouse would have been more user-friendly.

“The double-click was a mistake,” says Atkinson, who left tech in 1995 to pursue nature photography. Personally, he double-clicks less frequently these days, given the rise of mouseless devices like tablets and smartphones. 

“I double-tap, or I tap,” he says. “I long-press.”

As technology evolves — and it changes rapidly nowadays — so do the buzzwords:  they often quickly lose their buzz:

Buzzwords tend to come and go, says HR consultant Nancy Settle-Murphy, noting that other tech-inspired jargon, such as “RTFM”—or read the f—ing manual—are less commonly used today than they once were.

“There are fewer manuals now,” says Settle-Murphy, who recently installed a video doorbell at her home and notes it didn’t come with any pictures or diagrams.

But double-click is not so ephemeral as many other buzzwords, whose lack of longevity is remarkable:

Double-click has a long pedigree in the sales world. Matt Sunshine, head of the Center for Sales Strategy, which trains salespeople, says when he sold ad spots for a local radio station in Dallas in the 1990s, peers commonly used the term. 

“Sales leaders would say, ‘Hey, you need to make sure you double-click on that’ with your prospects,” Sunshine says, meaning delve more deeply into any issues customers might raise, as in “Tell me more.” 

As Mark Metcalf, who called this article to my attention, says:  "The comments are worth the price of admission".


Selected reading



  1. Nick Kaldis said,

    July 10, 2024 @ 11:31 am

    I believe "double-click" 1st entered American slang after the release of
    AMERICAN PIE (1999 Dir. Paul Weitz & Chris Weitz), which has the now-famous line: "You've never double-clicked your mouse?"

  2. Victor Mair said,

    July 10, 2024 @ 12:13 pm

    Marvelous catch, Nick!

  3. Mike Anderson said,

    July 10, 2024 @ 12:49 pm

    Oh, goody. An unworthy successor to "drill down." More annoying bizspeak from the backpfeifengesichten suit brigade.

  4. cameron said,

    July 10, 2024 @ 1:19 pm

    I work in tech, but as a consultant so I'm in meetings with people (mostly, but not entirely, techies) from a lot of different industries. I've never heard anyone use "double-click" in this figurative sense. As far as I can tell, "drill down" is still the term that people use.

  5. Till said,

    July 10, 2024 @ 2:50 pm

    The WSJ is a bit late for double-clicking on this jargon. I work in an environment that gets visited by business consultants every couple of years and they have been happily double-clicking for the most part of the last decade.

    It’s grating to me, but the metaphor is actually more apt than the equally popular “deep dive”. After all, you open a folder with more specific information by double-clicking. But “closer look” would do it too.

  6. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    July 11, 2024 @ 8:38 am

    While we're peeving, can I make a case for the extirpation of another backpfeifengesichtlich bizspeak word (thanks, Mike A.)?

    When I first heard the term "high-level" description, I'd been thinking in terms of "high" in terms of ascending levels of subject-matter knowledge required to engage therewith. So, a "high-level" theology book might be Aquinas; logic / Frege; epistemology / Kant; physics / Einstein, etc.

    But that ain't how they use it! It is used to mean precisely the _opposite_, like a satellite photo being a "high-level" view of, say, forestry, i.e., missing all the details.

    I make a motion for a roll-call vote, do I have a second?

  7. KWillets said,

    July 11, 2024 @ 10:24 am

    The FT has a history of usage. I believe Apple has used the term figuratively for some time, but others have started to mouseover it.

  8. Pamela said,

    July 11, 2024 @ 10:32 am

    "Double-click defenders say the phrase encourages deeper thinking." Says more than you want to know about what "double-click defenders" think deeper thinking is.

  9. Hallo said,

    July 13, 2024 @ 9:37 pm

    Reminds me of "unpack" and "problematize."

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    July 15, 2024 @ 1:51 pm

    "I make a motion for a roll-call vote, do I have a second ?". Not from me, Benjamin. Brought up to believe that stepwise-refinement is the only way to develop software, for me "high-level" is the most abstract view of a program; each lower level represent a more detailed (and therefore less abstract) view, until at the lowest level we are writing the code that performs the individual minutiæ

  11. Philip Taylor said,

    July 15, 2024 @ 1:53 pm

    Hallo, Hallo — re. "unpack" :

    1472–5 Rolls of Parlt. VI. 155/2 Then it be leeffull to the Collectours‥to doo unpakke there tho Pakkes and Fardels.   

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