# - why do Americans call it a POUND sign

# - why do Americans call # a POUND sign when they use it as an abbreviation for NUMBER - eg '# 1 best seller' (its real name is an octothorpe)
11:05 Thu 10th Jul 2003
 
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Einstein, I would say that the name given to the # sign by its creator - who first put it on telephone keypads - is the real name. Other names by which its popularly known is hash, gate and box.
It seems to have originally related to 'pound' in terms of weight. Click http://freespace.virgin.net/john.cletheroe/usa_can
/lang/digits.htm
for some explanation of this Americanism.

'Octothorpe' is a very recent invention...it's not even listed in Chambers or The Oxford English Dictionary.

Question Author
Thankyou Quizmonster, but the link you give actually says its use for pound weight is a 'mistake'. The explanation he gives about computer keyboards is just plain silly - American keyboards do (and did not) not have � signs and even supposing both the � and # sign were on one key, why would they call # pound?
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I would have thought that it's 'proper' name was a noughts-and-crosses board, which surely precedes the telephone? ;o)
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Question Author
shybearuk - it looks like noughts & crosses, but it is different - the uprights lean marketdly to the right. This symbol was designed in the Bell laboratories for phone keyboards - Einstein, yes it is most commonly called hash in the UK, but the inventor of the symbol named it octothorpe.

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But all of this is missing the point of my question. Why do the Americans call it a pound sign and yet they use it as a shorthand for number? Why not number sign?

Pinotage, If you click on http://www.theregus.com/content/28/25501.html and read the paragraph that opens: "The US usage derives..." then further down to the section headed "Octothorpe", you'll see what I was trying to get at re weight in my earlier answer. Cheers.
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For an explanation of the introduction of the word 'octothorpe' see this link.
http://www.sigtel.com/tel_tech_octothorpe.html
The US usage of the # sign as a 'pound' sign derives from the old fashioned commercial practice of using it as a suffix to tag pound weights on bills of lading.
The # sign is known by many different names in a variety of computer languages, including, but not limited to, number sign, pound, pound sign, hash, sharp, hex, mesh, grid, crosshatch, octothorpe, flash, square, pig pen, tictactoe, scratchmark, thud, thump and splat.
So, it's real name is not limited to octothorpe.
The real name of the hash sign is whichever one of it's multiple names you want it to be. The sign was originally in use by the ancient Chinese.The name octothorpe was coined by someone at the Bell Telephone Company for this symbol when including it on a touch tone phone in the 1960s. So, you can say that octothorpe is one of the names for the hash sign, but certainly cannot imply that it is the signs real name.
The guy who put the # sign on a telephone keypad didn't create that sign. The # sign has been in use for thousands of years. The Bell telephone Co. merely used an existing symbol and one of their smart employees renamed it for commercial purposes.
Templeman and Quizmonster have explained why the # sign was called a pound sign in America.
The # sign being called a pound sign is not connected in any way to the � money sign which is why you are probably getting confused Pinotage.
Question Author
OK - so what have we got? # was used in America on lading bills to denot a pound weight. Good - so thats why it was called pound. So - and back once again to the original question - how did a sign for pound become used as shorthand for the word 'number' ? Its like us using lb symbol for pound as "lb 1 UK best seller"

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Dear jellybaby22 - if you read my question you'll see there was no question of my confusing � with # .

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As for octothorpe - gosh I mentioned that because I wanted to avoid the very wild goose-chases that have been appearing here instead of answers. I know the derivation of the word, and all the alternatives for #, I know why and how computer printer codes work. I've professionally used computer keyboards in 20 countries and they all differ. Forget octothorp. Does anyone know the answer to the question? It seems not.

Pinotage, your question was "why do Americans call # a POUND sign".
That has quite clearly been answered.
You are the one who stated in your question that the REAL name for # is octothorpe. It has been pointed out above that this is not it's real name, but just one of it's many names.
If you have the experience that you claim, then you will know that one of the names and uses of the # sign has always been number.
I believe that I answered your original question which asked why Americans call # a pound sign.
I suggest that if that explanation is not sufficient then you should tell us why and I'm sure that we can delve for even more info. I'm surprised that you didn't know the answer with all your world wide experience.
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