I am starting to think Merriam-Webster’s word of the day is the coolest thing everNovember 9, 2007 9:21 am
I suggest you sign up.Â Â Today’s word solves a little mystery behind a common symbol we lovingly refer to as the “Pound Sign”
The Word of the Day for November 9 is:
octothorpe \AHK-tuh-thorp\ noun
Â Â Â Â : the symbol #
Â Â Â Â Barry noticed the pound sign on the telephone and remarked about how much the octothorpe resembled a tic-tac-toe grid.
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Â Â Â Â Stories abound about who first called the # sign an “octothorpe” (which can also be spelled â€œoctothorpâ€). Most of those tales link the name to various telephone workers in the 1960s, and all claim the “octo-” part refers to the eight points on the symbol, but the “thorpe” remains a mystery. One story links it to a telephone company employee who happened to burp while talking about the symbol with co-workers. Another relates it to the athlete Jim Thorpe, and a third claims it derives from an Old English word for â€œvillage.â€ If the plethora of theories leaves your head spinning, you might want to take the advice of the wag who asked (poetically), “Can we simply just say, / Ere it spoils your day, / It’s the thorp between seven and nine?”
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
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