Octothorpe, not hash!
December 7, 2003 9:03 AM   Subscribe

The real source of the word "Octothorpe"
posted by riffola (13 comments total)
####ing excellent!
posted by carter at 9:08 AM on December 7, 2003

I don't think I can pound that word into my vocabulary. Cute link, though.
posted by cortex at 10:07 AM on December 7, 2003

I like the story about octothorpe (also octathorpe and originally octalthorpe), but it lacks supporting documentation.

The American Heritage Dictionary says something different: "probably humorous blend of octal, an eight-point pin used in electronic connections (from the eight points of the symbol) and the name of James Edward Oglethorpe."

This post, taken from Wordsmith.org, considers both Oglethorpe and Jim Thorpe.

This is from the New York Times, Oct. 6, 1986: Name That Button. "Three months ago Privacy Journal, a Washington newsletter often concerned with computers, invited readers to submit names for the # symbol of the lower right-hand corner of the telephone button panel. Among two dozen reponses, the editor, Robert Ellis Smith, has determined Octothorpe to be the 'most authentic' and Gridlet to be the most intriguing."

If we could get ahold of that issue of Privacy Journal, perhaps it will have information to substantiate the McPherson claim. Or any of those old Bell Labs documents using the word mentioned in Riffola's origina link. This post from Sept. 1993 mentions a document called The Pronouncation guide V2.2, apparently from Steve Hayman at Indiana U., which tells the Bell story of the octathorpe.

The earliest cite is could find is a June 1983 Usenet post. Octothorpe and variants do not appear prior to that in any of the historical newspaper archives I have searched.

Note that there are other words using -thorpe: Bithorpe, half a quadrathorpe (or a hyphen). Quadrathorpe, half an octathorpe. Also, here, an equal sign is shown with quadrathorpe as a synonym, which makes sense if you think of it as two hyphens.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:22 AM on December 7, 2003

Though you'd probably make a hash of it trying.
posted by teferi at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2003

oddly enough, the asterisk in * is five-pointed.
posted by dorian at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2003

I'm sorry, riffola, but how is this related to kittens?
posted by filmgoerjuan at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2003

[this is good]

Mo Nickels :- Small world; I used to live within walking distance of James Oglethorpe's magnificent house in Godalming, Surrey, which has an interesting history itself apart from the connection to the founder of the State of Georgia.... (Godalming is probably most famous for the story of the woman who claimed to have given birth to rabbits, immortalised by Hogarth).
posted by plep at 11:32 AM on December 7, 2003

Being from Georgis, I'm all for the Oglethorpe theory...but why is the word 'probably' a humorous blend of octal with James Edward Oglethorpe? The American Heritage Dictionary editors raise new questions with their inscrutable lexigraphegery.
posted by crunchburger at 1:15 PM on December 7, 2003

This is a terrific link no matter who’s right. Thanks, riffola. However, I still prefer the tilde.
posted by LeLiLo at 2:56 PM on December 7, 2003

Just a bunch of floobydust if you ask me.

And you should have asked me.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:00 PM on December 7, 2003

[this is good]
posted by dg at 5:03 PM on December 7, 2003

The 'star' on my keyboard is not TU-T E.161 3.2.2 compliant. I feel robbed. gypped?
posted by Galvatron at 8:47 PM on December 7, 2003

The * is to be known as "star" or equivalent in other languages. It is a six pointed star, with 60 degree angles, and orientated such as to have a horizontal line.

WTF? On my phone, AND on my keyboard, the asterisk is as described, with the horizontal line, but not on the page with this sentence, or my MeFi screen. I've generated asterisks in several different applications on two different computers (both keyboards show it with the correct horizontal line), and it's usually "orientated" to have a vertical line! What's going on here? The one in Notepad is the only one I've found so far that's compliant.

Somebody should look into this, dammit!
posted by soyjoy at 9:09 AM on December 8, 2003

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