Office Speak: “Double-Click” – “Can we double-click on that point?”

I’m sitting in a meeting, presenting graphically rich charts to some senior people when one of them says to me “Graham, can we double-click into what that means?” This was a term I’d heard hundreds of times before; I knew what was meant by the question, but this time it struck me as an odd thing to say – “double-click“?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this way of speaking let me explain.

What is being requested is that I go into more detail about something in the presentation – that I open-it-up.

For those of you who have grown up in a world of desktop computing, and in particular a Microsoft Windows world, this makes total sense because you double-click on a file to open it up.

What’s strange is that double-clinking isn’t something many of us do very often, anymore. Most of our modern-day technology interactions are about a single-click or a tap. You don’t double-click a link in a browser, no one double-clicks to open anything on a mobile or tablet device. The only double-click I can think of on my iPhone is when I double press the side button to open the wallet. On a mobile are tablet device you are much more likely to long-press something than double-click.

It’s really only within the Microsoft Windows File Explorer and the Apple macOS Finder that anyone double-clicks on anything to open it. Perhaps that says something about the context in which people use the phrase?

I suppose that “can we click into that point a little?” doesn’t have the same impact, and “can we tap into that point a little?” sounds very strange indeed given the multiple meanings of “tap” (in UK English at least).

As we’ve seen in other posts the reasons that certain Office Speak finds its way into an organisation is complex, and often without clearly defined logic.

Sometimes Office Speak is a shortcut way of saying something, which doesn’t appear to apply here, it’s easier to say “can you open up that point a little”, than to say “can we double-click into that point a little”.

Sometimes the phrase is associated with an individual, and it’s that association that makes use widespread. If that is the case, I’ve not been able to work out who that person is. In a TED Podcast from May of 2022 Adam Grant is talking with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft and there’s this fascinating little phrase from Adam:

“Well, I’m a big fan of rethinking for obvious reasons. And I want to try to speak one of your languages. Can we double click on each of those themes that you just raised? Is double click the right lingo here is that we’re looking for. Okay, good.”

Satya Nadella is building the future (Transcript)

That’s interesting, Grant associates the phrase, the lingo, with Nadella, or perhaps with Microsoft, but I’ve heard it used in many more organisations than that. Although I must acknowledge the limitations of my own observations, I work in technology, and work a lot with people who also work in technology, so perhaps this lingo isn’t used as widely as I perceive it is.

It’s almost like there is a reverse taxonomy adoption going on here. The way it normally works is that we use the lingo of day-to-day life in the way we present technology to make it understandable. An example of this is files and folders, the storage on the computer isn’t creating files and folders, they are just shown that way to help us. With double-click the taxonomy is working back the other way, something we do in our technology interactions has escaped into the real world. I suppose there are plenty of examples of this – reboot, upload, download – to name a few.

Personally, I’m resisting the use of double-click, I much prefer to ask someone to “go into more detail”.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my little double-click into double-click 😉

Header Image: Sunrise on my morning walk. Autumn has arrived.

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