I am starting to think Merriam-Webster’s word of the day is the coolest thing ever

November 9, 2007 9:21 am Published by

I suggest you sign up.   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

     : the symbol #

Example sentence:
     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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Did you know?
     Stories abound about who first called the # sign an “octothorpe” (which can also be spelled “octothorp”). 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 “village.” 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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