dot, etc.

Mark Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Thu Aug 2 19:14:01 UTC 2001

Jim Landau asks:

Another question: when did the diagonal line start being called a "slash"?
This usage is also well-nigh universal among English-speaking programmers.

What do, or did, you call it? I am pretty well sure that the name "slash"
goes back at least to when I was in high school in the early sixties. I
remember it as the earliest name that I learned for this punctuation mark,
which is formally (for some value of "formal") called a "virgule", from
Latin for 'little rod'*; but I have never heard that in conversational
usage. In fact, I don't know that I've ever heard it at all: only read it.

Or are you referring to the widespread confusion in which "\" is called a
slash? I never even saw this symbol before I started using computers, and
AFAIK its proper name is "backslash", or sometimes "reverse slash". Any
programmer who confuses the two symbols themselves will find her program
well and truly ****ed. I have also heard the retronym "forward slash" for

* although in French "virgule" is the everyday name for a comma!

                  Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist
            Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :

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