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OCTOTHORP

Posted by Frankie on September 13, 2000

Here's something interesting. But, why do we now call it the "pound" sign.
OCTOTHORP
(AHK-tuh-thorp)
(n.) The "pound" sign, "number sign," or "tictactoe sign"

Also spelled "octothorpe," this name for the "#" symbol dates from the 1960s. The story goes that it was coined by employee at Bell Labs after the telephone company introduced the # key on then-new
touch-tone phone systems. When instructing their first new client in the use of the new system, employee Don Macpherson supposedly dubbed that particular key the "octothorp." He chose "octo-" because of the
symbol's eight points, and added "thorpe" because at the time he belonged to a group trying to get the Olympic medals of the athlete Jim Thorpe returned from Sweden.

That's the story, anyway. But lacking firmer proof, the few dictionaries that even include this word fudge the issue, noting that its origin is "unknown." Another suggested origin involves the fact
that "thorpe" is Old Norse for "farm" or "village": Some have suggested that octothorpe is so named because the # resembles eight fields around a village. Suffice to say, it's not often that you hear "Please enter your password, followed by the 'octothorp'."