Number, Pound, Hash, Huh?

Posted December 7th, 2011 by
Language is simply amazing. 
Syntax, grammar, phonology, morphology, body language… Even in one language, there are SO many aspects to communication, it’s actually pretty amazing that we all generally understand each other. 
…and whether it’s visual or verbal, it’s all symbolic…even the literal stuff.  🙂

Seriously, though… what do you think when you see the following symbol?  #

  • Honestly, my first memory of this symbol was the game, tic-tac-toe.  …and that’s just a background… a board for Xs and Os. 
  • Since I was raised by a math teacher and voracious readers, my next interpretation was a number symbol.  #1.
  • No teenager, or semi-communicative American could misunderstand the “pound” sign.  Phone systems STILL use the term.
  • Now, however, the symbol is commonly recognized as the first part of a hash tag. 

It’s all symbolic.  It’s all communicative.  Mostly, it’s just really danged impressive that one itty-bitty symbol can mean SO many things to native English speakers, and we still, generally, understand the meaning from the context in which it is used. 

Without context, though… if you just see the symbol, # …  what do you think?  What comes to mind first?  I think the answer might actually say a lot about us.  🙂

One Response to “Number, Pound, Hash, Huh?”

  1. Barbie Crafts

    It used to be a number sign…of course, its a hash tag now Tweeps.