# has a name you’d never guess
Depending on when you were born, you probably know the # symbol as either a pound sign, number sign, or for the Twitter junkies among us, a hashtag. Turns out, none of those names are right: According to an engineer at Bell Labs (formerly part of AT&T), which made the symbol mainstream via its touch-tone telephones in 1968, that little hex is called an octothorpe. The octo logically describes the symbol’s eight points. As for the thorpe, some theories say it comes from the Old English word for village (thorp), referencing the hex’s appearance of eight little fields surrounding a central square; others say the Bell researchers were just really big fans of the late Olympian Jim Thorpe, and needed a cool-sounding syllable to finish their new word. #TheMoreYouKnow Maybe we should add the octothorpe to this list of 12 secret punctuation marks we should all start using.
@ has hilarious names around the world
A Dutchman calls it the monkey’s tail, an Israeli insists it’s a strudel. They aren’t bantering about some new simian-themed bakery; they’re just describing the @. Though shorthand use of the @ dates back to the 16th century, it took English speakers a remarkably long time to settle on a name. Today, we know it as the “at mark” or “commercial at” and are accustomed to seeing it in e-mail addresses. Meanwhile, the rest of the world was inventing brilliant descriptors, like the “little dog” (Russian), the “small snail” (Italian), and the straight-up “crazy A” (Bosnian). It gets way worse, of course—just check out these foreign signs with hilariously bad translations.