Discussion Forum


Posted by PatsyF
Friday, 2 February 2007

I hope that no-one objects to this very inconsequential post. It's not a matter of shattering local importance, but it's something for which I just can't seem to get an explanation elsewhere.

For many years now we have all had a symbol on our phones called 'hash' or, as my bank calls it, 'square'. Recently an American friend tried to leave me a message and was puzzled by the automated message which referred to a hash - she didn't know the term. I emailed that she uses it in her address as a prefix before her apartment number - so now we both know what we're talking about.

She tells me that in the US it's called 'pound', not to be confused with £-sterling or 'lb'-weight. I can't google an enquiry as the symbol isn't on my keyboard, and 'hash' brings up lots of herbal stuff! So does anyone know how the symbol and our name for it began? Best wishes to all, PatsyF

PS: In the same vein, what is the '§' on the keyboard?

From Oscar
Friday, 2 February 2007


Take a look at



for the section sign '§'.

Lots of other 'twiddles' explained here also.

From Adam B
Friday, 2 February 2007

For some reason this post intrigued me so I thought I'd look it up - google might bring up lots of references about resin but you've gotta love dictionary.com!

"#", ASCII character 35.

Common names: number sign; pound; pound sign; hash; sharp; crunch; hex; INTERCAL: mesh. Rare: grid; crosshatch; octothorpe; flash; ITU-T: square, pig-pen; tictactoe; scratchmark; thud; thump; splat.

The pronunciation of "#" as "pound" is common in the US but a bad idea; Commonwealth Hackish has its own, rather more apposite use of "pound sign" (confusingly, on British keyboards the pound graphic happens to replace "#"; thus Britishers sometimes call "#" on a US-ASCII keyboard "pound", compounding the American error). The US usage derives from an old-fashioned commercial practice of using a "#" suffix to tag pound weights on bills of lading. The character is usually pronounced "hash" outside the US.

The name "octothorpe" was made up by a Bell Labs supervisor, Don Macpherson.

See Octothorpe story.

I tried following the references to octothorpe (whatever that is) to see if it would yeald interesting info but I couldn't get to it - maybe a google search would produce something.

I haven't answered your questions as such but it's a little more info.

Now it's time for my lunch... :-)

From Tim
Sunday, 4 February 2007

From the Oxford English Dictionary

hash sign [cf. hash-mark: prob. ult. f. HATCH v.2, altered by popular etymology], the symbol #, esp. used before a numeral (as in N. Amer.) to indicate a following number; the ‘number sign’

From Andy M
Sunday, 4 February 2007

A thread with this title merely referring to 'phone symbols....a sure sign of the changing face of Hebden Bridge ;-) ?

Posted by PatsyF
Thursday, 8 February 2007

Thanks, everyone, for all the info. Yup, Andy, when I posted the query I did wonder how many people would click onto this expecting the obvious Hebden Bridge topic! Sorry to those who were disappointed.