Sunday, May 1, 2016

Beware the Power of the Octorhorpe

No, it's not one of Godzilla's enemies, or a beach monster in a 1950's B-movie. We use it every day, or at least, many of us do, the little critter called an octothorpe. It's the symbol on the keyboard directly above the number three that we make by pressing that key and holding down the Shift key. Also known in the Twitter universe as 'hashtag', it looks like this: #.

This versatile little symbol has had several names over the years, including: the pound sign, number sign, tic-tac-toe, gate, crunch, and square. Its origin is lost in that dim history of printers' marks, but supposedly it goes back at least to 1850. Possibly it derived from the abbreviation for 'pound' (lb), but with a horizontal line midway across the top. I can't begin to type that on here, so I won't even try.

As far as its name, octothorpe, there's even wilder rumors about that name, but it seems the 'octo' root derives from the fact that it has eight points. One of the craziest explanations for the 'thorpe' part says that it came from the last name of Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe. Why? No telling.

Today, many folks call it a 'hashtag' because of the original 'hash' designation and it's used to 'tag' key words in Twitter.

For more information on punctuation, see these posts:

#Keep writing, friends.

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