Jun 21

I always thought it was a Pound Sign

You’ve seen it all your life.  It always meant one of two things… either it was the number key on the telephone keypad (it never was there on a rotary phone) or you saw it after a number indicating a weight.  I grew up calling it a pound sign it’s the # symbol.

But today you keep hearing about hashtag this and hashtag that.  The ubiquitous pound sign has a new meaning today — “Hashtag” and it’s showing up on all kinds of social networks.

We were recently having dinner with a group of friends (all about my age) and the topic of Hashtag came up.  One of the folks at the table insisted that it meant an internet address of some kind.  But other than me, I don’t think anyone really understood what Hashtag means today.

Hashtag started in the Twitter world (a lot more about that another day) but it’s starting to show up on Facebook and other Social Networks and I have a suspicion it will become pretty common over the next couple of years.

It’s used to define a search term.  For example, I’m a Chicago Bears fan.  So as I browse or search Twitter I can enter #Bears in the search box and it will return any Twitter entry that has “#Bears” in it.  Now this would give me a lot of things I wasn’t looking for, since there’s a lot more Bears than Chicago Bears.  So I’d refine the search to #ChicagoBears and I’d get any entries that have “#ChicagoBears” in it.  You’ll note that there’s no space between Chicago and Bears in the hashtag search that I did, since the Hashtag will only work on a single string of characters.  That’s why I put the words together.

Now, why am I spending time in this blog talking about this?  Well, its simple.  The more time you spend online and dealing with the Social networks, the more frequently you’re’ going to see the # symbol showing up.  But more than that, you’re going to see it everywhere.  You’ll see it superimposed on TV shows, like #bigbangtheory or #NCIS.  The networks are using Twitter and the Hashtag search to try to get you to follow their postings on the social networks.  So, they’re using the broadcast media to direct you to the online postings about the show.

You’ll see it in newspapers and a variety of other medium.  So rather than wondering what it meant, I thought I break the stigma of the Pound sign or number key and show you how it’s changed and is being used today.

Thanks for reading and be sure to share this with your friends via email or share it on your Facebook wall!  All the best and I’ll be shouting at you in a few days!


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  1. Patty

    My question is, if you don’t use the pound key wouldn’t the subject still be researched? aka chicago bears vs #chicagobears

  2. Marty Silbernik

    It sure will, Patty… Which is why I wonder why the hash tag became so prevalent. There really is no reason that I can see to use it. But I’m sure that someone that uses Twittera lot more than me will tell us.

  3. Stuart Sweet

    Worth mentioning that what we tend to call a pound sign (which we should more properly call a number sign) is referred to by much of the rest of the world as a hash mark. Hence the name hash tag. It makes sense if you think of the actions your spatula makes when making hash, or so I’m told (since I buy canned hash.)

    As I remarked, calling it a pound sign is also a little dicey (ok, pun intended) as was long ago told that the mark for pound sterling (£) used to occupy the same location as the (#) character on some electric typewriters, teletypes, and early computer keyboards. That may or may not explain the term.

  4. Stuart Sweet

    Oh, and as for why hash tags are prevalent? If you want exclusive use of one on Twitter, you pay for it. Isn’t that enough motivation?

  5. Marty Silbernik

    Hmmm… interesting and thanks for sharing that Stuart… Having spent years in the restaurant business and had my share of spatulas, I never saw that relationship, but then again — I didn’t make too much hash :).

    In summary — I think it’s one of those things that depending on where you were from or how long ago you grew up, it can easily be a hash mark or pound sign or number key!

    Thanks again for the insight!

  6. Marty Silbernik

    I never knew you could pay for an exclusive hashtag on Twitter — Thanks for that as well, Stuart.

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