#Hashtag: The Evolution of a Language

Remember when “#” used to mean “pound” or “number”?  It was that ubiquitous little symbol on old typewriters formally used to indicate weight or how many. Now it has become “hashtag” in modern parlance, showing the evolution of language.

Lets take that apart some.  What is ‘hash’?  By its early definition it was “Hash (food), a coarse mixture of ingredients.”  And “tag”.

So what we have here is a coarse mixture of ingredients (the words), ‘tagged’ by this number symbol, this ‘pound’ . . .

I wonder how many hashtags weigh sixteen ounces.  Or what their currency rate is.

Why didn’t the ‘author’ of the use of “hashtags” (coined by Kanye West in 2010) use a tilde (~) or some other feature of the keyboard?

Well, it was Chris Messina who proposed they be used on Twitter, and therefore not incidentally was the first to use them.  He posted the first on Twitter: “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” in 2007. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashtag).  And having worked in computer programming I can understand his (and others) reluctance to use the tilde, backwards backslash (how can there be such a thing? Aren’t all backslashes ‘backwards’, anyway) – and the @ was already taken (see email) and other things.

But how about those double ‘bars’ – the vertical ones?  “|” is what I’m sayin’.  I guess it looks too much like a barrier to communication, or perhaps it (|), too, was already taken in some programming block of code somewhere.

I dunno. I kinda don’t like this ursuping of my “number” meaning – and what am I going to use for “pound” anymore?  Have you ever tried typing “Pound” vs. “#”??  The second is a lot easier

So does this mean if I say I want 12# of sugar I’ve ‘tagged’ something? Or nothing at all.  What about the English Pound?  (I’m meaning currency here, not weight.)  Nowhere on my keyboard do I see that funny little curlycue thing that they use to represent it, much like Americans use the $ symbol.  I’m assuming it’s there – buried under one of those “Alt-thisandthat” codes you can use to summon one up.

But this just goes to show the evolution of language.  “Hash”, a term once used to describe food now describes a conglomeration of ‘similar’ items.  I don’t know – have you seen some of the hashtag postings nowadays?  People are using #hashtag to draw attention and notice that has nothing to do with what they are saying.  A form of “Hashtag Spam”.  (BTW, I just finished ‘adding’ “hashtag” to my computer’s dictionary so it won’t keep flagging it when I use it.  It has become a word now, as I’m sure the latest dictionaries are saying.)

And “tag”, a game I used to play as a child has become something more serious: a form of communication, grouping together the things you type and say under a general subject so anyone can find it, just in case they’re interested.

It didn’t work like that for me as a child . . . or didn’t it?  The person “tagged” was “it”.  I suppose you can say the same about some words.  And wouldn’t “#tag” be somewhat redundant?  Tagging a tag?  That’s like the little children running towards what they once avoided, isn’t it?

I’ve run afoul of the “hashtag” mark before – for a long time I was confused.  I’d get notes in engineering . . .

“#2 pump is putting out @22# and failing, but #1 is @50#; therefore if we buy a new regulator (cost 33#) we might be able to bump the flow up a bit . . .”

Or this one on a receipt I got: “2# #2 screws @ $1/#”.

A lot of those characters are up for grabs, of course – the English language has very few inflexible rules, and the same can be said for sentences.  “She ran” can be “Ran she did.”  “A pound” used to be “#”.  And now it’s something else . . .

That’s the evolution of language – with ‘twerking’ and ‘texting’ and all these other ‘new’ things it’s bound to keep evolving, and technology is driving it on.  Who knows what other QUERTY keyboard symbols and letters they’ll be subverting for their own use, until the authors of the past won’t be able to understand the authors of the future – and vs versa.

After all, can you understand this?

“Fæder ure
ðu ðe eart on heofenum
si ðin nama gehalgod
to-becume ðin rice
geweorþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofenum.
Urne ge dæghwamlican hlaf syle us to-deag
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgifaþ urum gyltendum
ane ne gelæde ðu us on costnunge
ac alys us of yfle.”

I believe you know it.  I know you’ve heard it.  It’s “The Lord’s Prayer”. (source: http://grammar.about.com/od/mo/g/oeterm.htm).

So I can’t help but wonder one day if someone is going to be struggling with our evolution of this language – the uses of hashtags and what they’ll become (again adding to my dictionary; apparently the plural of the word isn’t automatically picked up) along with all of the other changes . . .

After all, won’t “computer” become “cellphone” – since it (the cellphone) already is and computers (as huge bulky systems) are disappearing?  When will “computer” go away on its own?  What about other words we’ve come to depend on – ones like “pocketwatch”, “gurney” (stretcher?) – or simple ones like ‘text’ . . . will it become just ‘msg’, you see? Or how about “PM” (which reminds me too much of “BM”) . . . I dunno.

Hashtag #nonsense old fuddy-duddy in me says.  # this, says another, holding up an offending finger . . . because  you wanna know what?

Language is constantly evolving and it does so every day. Your use of a word now vs. use of it later may change – as you change and mirror it and the world around you, changing the words you say.

Good luck with that.

It’s a wonder we understand each other at all – and there’s no guarantee they’ll understand us in the future any more than we past slang . . .

“Gotcha man, gotta git groovin’, get the truck on . . . g’day!”




About jeffssong

JW is an adult childhood abuse survivor with DID*. He grew up in a violent family devoid of love and affection. He is a military brat and veteran. He no longer struggles with that past. In 1976 JW began writing "The Boy". It took 34 years to complete. It is currently on Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004T3IVKK ), or if you prefer hard copy, on Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com/Boy-J-W/dp/1461022681). JW resides somewhere in the deep South. He is disabled and living with family. Note: Please feel free to take what you need; all is free to all. With that in mind, keep it that way to others. Thank you. We have 3 Blogs - One for our younger days, 0-10 (The Little Shop of Horrors); one for our Teen Alter and his 'friends' (also alters) with a lot of poetry; and finally "my" own, the Song of Life (current events and things)
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