etymology of "octothorp"

Subject: etymology of "octothorp"
From: Mark I Halpern <Mark_Halpern -at- SMTPGATE -dot- TESSERACT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 30 Sep 1996 16:16:18 PST


According to Robert Bringhurst, "The Elements of Typographical
Style" (Hartley & Marks, 1992), "octothorp" means "eight fields."

The book itself, incidentally, is a beautiful one, packed with
information about the visual aspect of presenting information -- if
you enjoy the Tufte books, for example, you'll enjoy the Bringhurst
just as much. And you'll learn many interesting things along the way,
such as the proper name of every little mark used anywhere in printing

mark_halpern -at- tesseract -dot- com

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: What's this called, # ?
Author: Bruce Nevin <bnevin -at- CISCO -dot- COM> at INET
Date: 9/30/96 2:45 PM

At 10:51 AM -0500 9/26/96, Elaine R. Firestone wrote:
>It's an "octothorp" -- no "e" at the end.

When I first came across it in maybe 1983 or so in one of the UNIX/C books,
I wondered if "octothorp" was some kind of joke by Brian Kernighan or
Dennis Ritchie or Steve Bourne (I forget which), because I could find it in
no reference book. It is not in Webster's 9th New Collegiate (W9NCD) nor in
the second college edition of that cosmetic derivative of it, the American
Heritage Dictionary. However, it is in W10NCD, with a citation date of
1971. There is no etymology found for -thorp.

I call # "pound sign" (def. 2 in W10NCD), though that is problematic for
British Commonwealth readers, or "number sign" (not in my dictionaries).

According to W10NCD, a hash mark is a service stripe on a military uniform
or an inbounds line on an American football field.

Bruce Nevin

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