2012 Word of the Year: "hashtag"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 6 13:32:49 UTC 2013

On Jan 5, 2013, at 11:10 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> On Sat, Jan 5, 2013 at 6:47 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
>> "octothorpe"
> The only word that I know for this symbol is "crosshatch," for which
> the OED has only one sorta-relevant cite:
> "1860   G. A. Sala Hogarth ii, in Cornhill Mag. Mar. 271   With the
> engravers, the ‘_cross-hatch_’ and the ‘double cypher’...were
> secrets."
> It's a word that I've "always" known. So, I have no recall whatever of
> when, where, why, or how I learned it. Bizarre, since the word is
> almost *never* used a noun..
> OTOH, I recall learning "pound-sign" circa 1972, because I had to ask
> people WTF they were talking about, when they used the term. And it's
> only in the past year that I've finally gotten a clue as to *why* the
> symbol has its usual name. I'll probably die without ever having
> occasion to speak the term.
I still call the # a crosshatch and only that, in particular when it's used to annotate sentences that, while grammatical, are deviant in some other way (e.g. semantically or pragmatically).  But on the phone I call it a pound sign, since that's what the automated voice on the other end tells me to hit.  Since I don't tweet, I have no idea what I'd call it in that context.  I suppose (cross)hatch > hash is a plausible shift.  "Octothorpe" is elegant, but I can't take it seriously, and it sounds more like a village with eight inhabitants.


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