Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

March 29, 2013

It's time to retire the octothorp

Will somebody please tell me what this is: # ?

When I was a kid, I thought it was just a really small tic tac toe grid. You know, like for Barbie and Ken to play.

Later I leaned that it was a number sign and could be used to denote a numerical value. Huh. Barbie and Ken had it all wrong.

When I began to take violin lessons, the symbol again took on a new meaning. It turned out it was not a number sign or a tic tac toe grid for unnaturally attractive dolls. It was a sharp sign. The symbol after a note means to slide my finger on the string and play the note as a sharp. Got it.

All of that also came into question later when all the phones became automated and computerized voices started telling me to "push the pound sign."

"What the heck is a pound sign?" I thought. Well, guess what! It's that same little grid that Barbie and Ken used to play on. Yes, as I discovered, when put before a number it means "number," but when it comes after a number it means "pound." Got it. Again.

Then came a college major that required writing a lot of essays and journalistic pieces. At that point "###" meant "the end." This is the point where I started to get irritated. How could one symbol mean so many things? Or was it actually evolving and changing just to irritate me? I began boycotting #. I refused to use it to mean "the end" or "number." I snubbed all games of tic tac toe. I gave up the violin. I had nightmares where hundreds of #'s wearing little tennis shoes chased me.

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