Saturday, January 20, 2018

Will the real # please stand up and explain itself?

Until about 20 years ago, the only meaning of which I was aware for the symbol "#" was "number."  I took tests using a #2 pencil, and yelled "We're #1!" at sporting events.

More recently, as electronic and other technical devices became commonplace, I learned that "#" was also called the "pound" sign.  What the heck is that supposed to mean?  Does # refer to the British pound sterling?  Is # something that one does to a nail with a hammer?

In its most popular current (re)incarnation, the # sign has become a "hashtag."  I've made a hash of things by making a mistake or getting something mixed up.  Where does the "tag" part come in?  Alternatively, can you make a hashtag on the stove, as you can with hash browns and corned beef hash?

I don't use Twitter and have mostly managed to avoid getting hooked on Facebook, but I guess a little education can't hurt.  Here's The Beginner's Guide to the Hashtag.

And here's one explanation for the origin of the hashtag that answers some of my questions:

"Typewriters made in the UK had the monetary symbol for pound (£) sharing the same key as the number 3. If you look at your modern day keyboard, you will see that our friend the hashtag also shares a key as the number 3. Coincidence?"

. . .

"As I mentioned before, a pound in the UK means something different than a pound in the United States. So if the symbol for pound in the UK is £, then what did they call #? They called it a hash."

Can I get scrambled eggs with that?

I have a B.A. in French and I edit 200-page documents for a living.  So, of course, talking about language(s) is one of my pet interests.  Let me see whether I can link some of my language discussions under a new label:



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