10 thoughts on “Hashtags”

    • Sorry, it’s always been called an “octothorpe”.

      It was mistakenly called “pound sign” because on British keyboards that is where the “L” thingie was.

      • No, it’s called a pound sign because the symbol has been commonly used for a century to represent dry weight in pounds on container labels, especially agricultural containers.

        Back to school with you, grumpy.

  1. Wiki on octothorpe: “Origin disputed. Reportedly a jocular coinage by Bell Labs supervisor Don Macpherson in the early 1960s, from octo- (“eight”), with reference to its eight points, + -thorpe (after 1912 Olympic medalist Jim Thorpe, in whom Macpherson was interested). However, Doug Kerr [1] attributes octatherp to a practical joke by engineers John C. Schaak, Herbert T. Uthlaut, and Lauren Asplund upon himself and Howard Eby.

    The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories (1991) supports octotherp as the original spelling, and telephone engineers as the source.”


    So, I suppose, if you are talking about the # sign, before around 1960 it might have been any of several names, but definitely not an octothorpe. After the 1960s it may only be called an octothorpe.

    • It’s on a phone. It’s an octothorp.

      US Patent 3920926, filed Dec. 1973:

      “FIG. 1 shows a pushbutton pad 1 … The pad 1 provides keys for numerals 0 to 9, while the sextile or asterisk (*) key is decoded to provide a decimal point and the octothorp (.music-sharp.) key generates a command to send the contents of the memory unto the telephone line through a send circuit 7, a coupling circuit 8 and the hybrid network 2.”

      • Cool! So, from the date on the patent, if it is on a phone after 1975 (or is it 1973, the date of the filing?), it is an octothorp. You have shown me that context is the key. On a phone it’s an octothorp, on a music staff it’s a sharp, and so forth.

        Register with Wiki and update the article and include the patent link as a reference. It’ll make that article more complete.

        I got to learn something today. Life is good.

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