Who Clicked First?

Sometimes I giggle when I come across foreign but oddly familiar terms on websites in languages other than English. “Klicken Sie hier, “Cliquez ici,” “Haga clic aquí.”

Isn’t that cute the way the Germans, French and Spanish have adopted our word click? But wait. Who’s copying whom?  According to the French Centre National de Ressources Textuelle et Lexicales, cliquer, ‘to click,’ is onomatopoetic in origin, meaning it imitates a sound, and dates from 1306.

On the other hand, the Oxford English Dictionary says about click:

Found only since 16th cent.: it agrees in form and sense with Dutch, Low German, dialect German klikken; also partly in sense with Old French cliquer (Cotgrave). How far these are connected is uncertain: the word is of echoic [another word for onomatopoetic] origin, and may have arisen independently in different languages.”

The Spanish Royal Academy says only that clic is of onomatopoetic origin. They do not cite a first date of use. I find it interesting that the second definition is:

“Pulsación que se hace en alguno de los botones del ratón de un ordenador… [a tap one makes on a button of a computer mouse].”  The Academy is careful not to use the English-tainted but popular word for “computer”: computadora, but seems to prefer ordenador,  which resembles the French Academy’s preferred term, ordinateur. The Academy didn’t feel the need to invent a special Spanish word for computer mouse, though. Ratón, the name of the long-tailed rodent, is fine.

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1 Response to Who Clicked First?

  1. Pingback: “Cliché” and “Stereotype” | Lexie Kahn: Word Detective

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