Here’s another metaphor that’s being killed by constant misuse: uptick. An uptick was originally a tiny, usually momentary, upward movement on a graph, especially a graph showing the course of some financial datum over time, such as the price of a stock, or an exchange rate. The analogy it drew was to the ticking of a watch (back when watches ticked), and the corresponding tiny movements of the second hand.
An uptick in those days was usually negligible:
‘It’s just an uptick right now and I’m happy ya know,’ said Torres.
Adela Uchida, “Tag Houston, you’re hit with graffiti“, KTRK-TV, Houston, Texas, 6 January 2009.
Today, uptick most often is simply used as an alternative to rise or increase:
After noticing an uptick in low-quality survey responses on Amazon Mechanical Turk, researchers wondered if bots were to blame. . . .”
“Notably, Bai and many of the researchers who reported an uptick in bad data this summer were using Captcha and attention checks . . . .”
“Amazon wouldn’t say whether there has been an uptick in automated behavior on MTurk recently, nor would the company discuss specific examples of bots or accounts. . . .
Emily Dreyfuss, “A Bot Panic Hits Amazon’s Mechanical Turk“, Wired, 17 August 2018.
Here, the writer uses uptick three times, and in each case it appears simply to mean increase. It carries no discernible analogy to a ticking clock or the movement of a second hand. Indeed, the story indicates that the increase in bad data is significant, prolonged, and worrisome. That is, it’s exactly not an uptick.