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Hash Marks

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Kathleen from Hebron, Connecticut, is curious about the term hashtag. She associates it with the symbol #, which she calls a pound sign. When that symbol, also known as a hash mark, doublecross, hatch mark, octothorpe, or number sign, is appended to a keyword, the whole thing is known as a hashtag. It’s used on Twitter, among other places, to help label a message on a particular topic. This is part of a complete episode.

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  • The hash mark has a number of names. One of the oddest is the “octothorpe”, also spelled octothorp, octathorp,and octatherp. In the 1960s and 70s when AT&T was preparing to introduce touch tone dialing, Bell Labs decided they needed two additional buttons to perform certain newly introduced functions. According to one story, one of their engineers noticed the sign as an eight-pointed figure, and added the suffix “thorpe” to pay homage to Olympian Jim Thorpe.

    Al Zagofsky
    Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

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