POUND SIGN.

Toward the end of this long thread from February, we got onto the subject of the symbol # being used for pounds; I had never seen it, but was presented with enough convincing evidence that I threw up my hands and accepted it (“Huh, you learn something every day. I wonder how I managed to miss the # = lb. thing?”). Now Mark Liberman at the Log has a post on this very topic:

Yesterday, in discussing Kevin Fowler’s song Pound Sign, there was some debate about the origin of the term “pound sign” for the symbol #. I suggested that it all started with the substitution of # for £ on American typewriter keyboards, but others argued that # was a standard symbol for pound(s) avoirdupois. I’ve heard this theory before, but I expressed skepticism about it because I’ve never actually seen the symbol used that way.

I’m not clear on why he’s so much more stubborn than me about accepting this use of the symbol, since he finds examples going back to 1923 and his commenters are as adamant about being familiar with it as mine, but he comes to this conclusion: “So I’m quite sure that this is why the engineers at Bell Labs called # “pound sign” — it corresponded to a Baudot code-point that had been used for £ in the UK and # in the U.S., probably since the late 19th century and certainly since the early 20th century.” You can find out about Baudot code-points in his post, and there’s already a lively discussion going on. (And that “Pound Sign” song is a lot of fun too.)

Comments

  1. I on the other hand had no clue about where the unit baud came from. Just that it’s not the same thing as bits per second.

  2. I’m no authority but the ‘pound sign’ as you call it is the ‘hash sign’ in the UK so perhaps this lends credence to your idea that this is to do with the difference between proper English keyboards and their colonial counterfeits ;)
    I have never encountered this sign used in relation to weights before – the Imperial system by its very nature doesn’t easily allow for variation!
    It does interest me though as a historian – this must, at one time, have been so obvious that no one felt the need to record the basics – I wonder what else we will forget to tell future generations ;)

  3. In computer science circles, # is invariably called ‘pound’ (in English at least) since the symbol is widely used and there is no other widely known name. HOWEVER # is one of 10 characters subject to change in the many variants of ASCII (i.e. all the characters accessed by the shift of a numeral on a typewriter), and if you use this character in a message to a correspondent in another country there is no telling what he/she will actually see.
    The neologism ‘octothorpe’ has some currency as an unambiguous name for the graphic.

  4. @Bruce – “invariably”? I think I’ve heard “hash symbol” used just as frequently. Not to mention “sharp”, popularized by the programming language C# (seeing as the musical sharp is a slightly different-looking symbol)

  5. Noetica says:

    Nearly all Australians would call “#” a hash, not a pound sign. The pound (symbol “£”) was our unit of currency until 1966 (when we adopted decimal currency, and dollars and cents); so we are attuned as the British are. Wikipedia’s article Pound sign conforms to British and Commonwealth usage (indeed, international usage generally), and deals with “£” or “₤”; it has a redirect at the top to the article Number sign, for “#”. We in Australia never, if left to our own devices, use “#” to mark a number, and this has been an issue much discussed in developing Wikipedia’s Manual of Style pages, especially the main page and the page dealing with numbers and dates.

  6. @Yuval — I agree “hash” is used, to an American audience, at least, as frequently as “pound” for this symbol. The peculiar phenomenon is that programmers in different countries viewing the same programming text might see # or £ or various other symbols. Limiting attention to the English speaking world, “pound” was a good compromise.
    Now, of course, in a Microsoft programming context we can write C# and be confident of various things
    1) Everybody will see the same graphic on their screens 2)This audience will know about C++ and will readily use the music name for the symbol
    Now a related puzzle: what is the French name for the C# Programming Language?
    Cé dièse — The name translated musically?
    Cé croisillon — (croisillon is the non musical French name for this symbol)?
    No, the normal French name of the programming language is “C Sharp” (same as English, but pronounced according to French rules)
    Three cheers for progress?

  7. Bruce: The French telephone convention is to use diese, not croisillon, for the hash symbol, even though it is not strictly musical (though I suppose it does generate a tone, perhaps that’s why it is used).
    And being Australian-educated, I always found the US use of the hash as a number indicator strange.

  8. How strange. In English-language IT literature and discussions I have never ever encountered “#” referred to as a “pound sign”. It’s always “hash”. Here in Germany, the symbol is usually called Gatter (mesh). Except in C# (C sharp), of course.

  9. I had recently been browsing through Communicating Sequential Processes again, so I now searched for “#” in a PDF of it. Hoare uses “#” for the length of a trace.
    Speaking of character sets – that eternal birdshit on the IT branch – I find that the search function in Adobe can be out of sync with the encoding. When I continued searching for “#”, it stopped at “down arrow” characters as well.

  10. Of course # is pounds in the US. I have a vague memory of ATT calling it “the pound sign”, when they were referring to the symbol on the telephone dial (keyboard), in the phone book. I suppose it’s possible they got this from Bell Labs.
    I’d be interested to kno what structural engineers and architects in other English-speaking countries used instead of # for pounds; surely not lbs?

  11. I’m getting schooled front and back here. I never thought to question that the whole world used # only for number. Now I hear some in the old country also use it to mean pounds, and in the new one, they don’t use it to mean number at all.
    Might there be an Australian take on the US use of ampersands?

  12. it is the ‘hash sign’ in the UK
    When I lived there it was known as “the little naughts-and-crosses symbol”

  13. dearieme says:

    The technical use that I’ve seen for # has been for the unit “psi” (pounds per square inch) for pressure. Neat, innit? Nifty, even.

  14. @Bruce: I don’t know where you got the idea that it’s always called “pound” in computer science circles. I think it would be closer to the truth to say that it’s never called “pound” in such circles. At least, in my experience it’s usually pronounced “sharp” or “hash” — note that the “sharp” pronunciation comes from the Unix world long before Windows introduced C# — and while I can’t specifically remember people calling it anything, I can’t believe that people would call it “pound” while pronouncing it “sharp” or “hash”. “Pound sign”, maybe; “pound”, no.

  15. (And I’m in the U.S., where “pound sign” is the normal colloquial name. It’s specifically in the computing world that I’ve never heard it.)

  16. This is the Unicode data for #. One oddity in the data is the cross-reference to U+2114, the ‘l b bar symbol’, which I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before.

  17. I first encountered the usage of ‘pound sign’ to describe ‘#’ in IT documentation written by estadounidenses in the late ’90s. I had never come across it before, and found it unintuitive and awkward.
    On the Apple UK keyboard layout (specific to Apple, of course), £ is generated by pressing ⌥ and #. One imagines this was intuitive enough to the Californians who came up with the layout, but certainly not to the average Brit.

  18. ££££ Hee hee. Thanks, Aidan. It works on an Apple Norwegian keyboard too. That’s a time saver.

  19. marie-lucie says:

    The instructions on my voicemail (in English Canada) say: “When you have finished recording, press POUND”. I was greatly puzzled the first time I heard those instructions, having no idea that POUND meant the # sign.

  20. mollymooly says:

    How do you get ⌥ on a Windows keyboard, apart from copy-pasting Aidan’s comment? It looks like a useful sideways smiley.
    While not from a #-ful culture, I have taken to using # before numbers, to indicate that the number is a reference-id rather than a quantity. “Give me 100 widgets” says how many widgets; “give me #100 widgets” says what model of widget. It has only just now occurred to me that this convention may be unique to me.

  21. I’ve seen ATT/Bell Labs internal publications from the 1960′s and 1970′s that clearly called the symbol an octothorpe.

  22. Has there ever been a Language Hat post explaining why things like “two (2)” and “2 (two)” suddenly appeared in the early ‘eighties and then equally abruptly disappeared again? I used to work for a guy who did it every time he wrote a number. When I asked him to explain, HE DIDN’T KNO WHY HE DID IT! Well, okay, of course he gave some waffly excuse, like it was the law or it made things clearer, but he really didn’t kno.

  23. Narrow Margin says:

    The writing of “2 (two)” or “two (2)” is comes from the construction of legal documents. It’s simply a way to make sure the proper number/word has been set down correctly by the lawyers on one or the other side, just to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Which of course tells us that contracts are needed because we basically don’t trust each other.

  24. Mr. Tushwooly, what gives with this “kno” in recent comments of yours ? Are you trying to start a new craze ? Look what happened to the Chicago Tribune.

  25. Pardon me: Tushwoolly.

  26. AJP. That’s a simple one. Our Des did it. It must be part of his Dutch triumphalism.

  27. How do you get ⌥ on a Windows keyboard, apart from copy-pasting Aidan’s comment?
    Character Map or BabelMap or ALT-8997 in Word (and so Outlook) >=2003.

  28. Bathrobe says:

    Yeah, well the same ⌥ used with the $ sign on a Mac keyboard gives you: Dadah….. ¢

  29. Noetica says:

    MMcM:
    ALT-8997 gives “%” for me, not “⌥”: in Word, here, and everywhere else under Windows.
    James:
    Might there be an Australian take on the US use of ampersands?
    There might, but I can’t think how it would differ from the US take, or any other. Say what your take is, and I’ll compare and contrast mine.
    Studude:
    … what gives with this “kno” …
    It’s this what gives that interests me. Where do you think it comes from? Looks German, ja? OED confirms this impression:

    “give, v.” [...] [40]f. what gives?: what is happening? (freq. as a question or merely as a form of greeting); so what gives with (someone or something)? = what is happening to?; what is (he, etc.) doing? (Cf. G. was gibt’s?) colloq. (orig. U.S.).

    But OED does not say that it originates in German. The first citation is American, from 1940 (Pal Joey, John O’Hara).
    That give doesn’t mean what give “normally” does; nor does the one in this apparently singular instance of another usage in OED, incidentally in a citation at “sunken, ppl. a.“: “[1976 ...] The entrance hall, which gave onto a white-carpeted, sunken living-room, …”. Curious. Unless I am missing something in the very long entry “give, v.“, this sense is not covered in OED. Easy to find earlier occurrences though, like this from 1938:

    Besides the two south windows – the windows giving onto the courtyard – the loft had one window in the turf roof facing east.

  30. Noetica says:

    Ah, I was indeed missing something in OED, at “give, v.“:

    43. To look, open, lead; afford a view or passage. Const. into, off, on, on to, over, to, upon. (A Gallicism: cf. F. donner sur.)

    First citation is from 1840. I was looking for onto, and missed this section. Still, again we see the OEDic “cf.”; and the French usage itself remains intriguing.

  31. ALT-8997 gives “%” for me, not “⌥”: in Word, here
    No idea what’s different. I didn’t think it was an option one had to enable. Works in Word 2003 on XP and Word 2010 on Win7 for me. (% is what I get in regular programs, though.)
    Even ALT-77922 works to give 𓁢, though not much likes to render it.

  32. It’s this what gives that interests me. Where do you think it comes from?
    It is indeed American. The usage I’m familiar with is the one the OED gives as “so what gives with (someone or something)? = what is happening to?; what is (he, etc.) doing?” It’s something my mother would say, so 1940 sounds about right. My generation would probably be more likely to say “what’s with X” and the current usage would be more like “what’s up with that?” (That’s midwestern usage, I can’t speak for Texas where Stud is from.) The “what gives” construction implies judgmental matronly disapproval and foreshadows future obstruction unless the implied dictates are complied with, i.e. “What gives with the long hair on that guy you’re going out with?”

  33. Stu

  34. Noetica says:

    dude

  35. Where do you think it comes from? Looks German, ja?
    Nun, I picked it up at an impressionable age from the Katzenjammer Kids, in the form “vot gifs ?!”. That was before I had learned a word of German. HERE is someone else on the net who cites that fons et origo of delicate expression (look for “vot” on the page).
    The general American public, myself included, apparently took “vot gifs mit [dem] X” to be equivalent to a censorious “just what do you think you’re up to with X ?”, as I was using it above. But was gibt’s mit [dem] X ?, if it’s said much at all, does not per se convey disapproval. It simply means “what’s the deal with X ?”, “what have you found out about X ?”. In the Rheinland, one usually asks was ist mit X ?.
    “Just what do you think you’re up to with X ?” is was denkst du dir [denn] [eigentlich] bei X ?. Of course plain old [na,] was gibt’s ? as a greeting is “[so,] what’s happenin’ ?” or <* holding tweezers *> “what up ?”. Another kind of greeting, said in a tone of annoyance, is was gibt’s denn (“now what ?”).
    For your records, donner sur is rendered in German as geht auf: Das Fenster geht auf den Hof.

  36. Later, I somehow got the idea that “what gives” is a kind of (faux ?) American Yiddish.

  37. Perhaps donner sur comes from the idea that the window or door “gives egress to” or “gives a view of”. “Gives [pedal, visual] access to”.

  38. What the OED says, I see belatedly: “afford a view or passage”.

  39. Hardly any German migration in our neck of the woods, although there were a bunch of German progressives who settled in nearby Minnesota much, much earlier. It was all Scandinavian with a handful of Russians. So the idea that the phrase might have been borrowed from German immigrants doesn’t ring true for me. Katzenjammer Kids was quite popular with the older generation, though (I’ve never seen it). The German accent from the cartoon would have sounded a lot like a Scandinavian accent, in fact my grandfather nearly got in trouble in the army over his Danish accent when it was mistaken for a German one.
    The “give onto” usage I don’t remember ever hearing spoken but is something I associate with descriptions of buildings written in a formal style.

  40. Here in Germany, the symbol is usually called Gatter (mesh). Except in C# (C sharp), of course.
    Since I know little (which is plenty) of Microsoft’s ways, I had always assumed that it was only the legacy of brokenness past that stopped everyone calling the language by its rightful name of C♯
    Sadly (or aptly, given that this is after all a Microsoft language) brokenness is the default, except for marketing purposes:

    Due to technical limitations of display (standard fonts, browsers, etc.) and the fact that the sharp symbol (♯, U+266F, MUSIC SHARP SIGN) is not present on the standard keyboard, the number sign (#, U+0023, NUMBER SIGN) was chosen to represent the sharp symbol in the written name of the programming language.[8] This convention is reflected in the ECMA-334 C# Language Specification.[6] However, when it is practical to do so (for example, in advertising or in box art[9]), Microsoft uses the intended musical symbol.

  41. “Kno” is from as any fule kno. According to Wikipedia, Deep Purple used it as a song title; so I’m surprised you don’t kno it, Crumbly.
    I should have acknowledged des (Des).

  42. Actually, Raute (“rhombus”) is the more official term in German, and at least in my humble experience also more commonly used (e.g. when calling computerized call centers).

  43. Raute (“rhombus”)
    What an odd word! Lutz Mackensen sez: “mhd rûte, Herkunft ungeklärt (kaum identisch mit Raute 1 [the plant rue]).”

  44. I’d love to see a sorting of German borrowings into American English — 18th c. immigration, 19th c. immigration, Yiddish, scholarly borrowing, other.

  45. Actually, Raute (“rhombus”) is the more official term in German … e.g. when calling computerized call centers
    davex, you’re absolutely right, that slipped my attention. The general public calls the “#” on the telephone key Raute, but there’s something strange going on here. I think I may have indulged in a bit of was nicht sein darf, ist auch nicht (what should not be the case, is not the case). Let me explain.
    THIS is a rhombus, in German Raute. THIS is not a rhombus, yet it is also called Raute[nzeichen]. But it’s a plain fact that a “#” is not a rhombus !!??
    Even in IT situations here (in Germany) you do occasionally hear “#” on a computer keyboard called Raute – but not by a programmer, I would say, but by the business analysts. I suppose that’s because it’s called Raute on the telephone key. But what is that cross-hatch doing on the telephone key anyway? Didn’t it use to be a rhombus, on old dial phones ??
    Gatter (gate) and Gitter (lattice, [fly]screen, barred [prison] window) are related etymologically. I rendered Gatter as “mesh” in an (ill-advised) attempt to get all the connotations in one word. Jemanden hinter Gitter bringen = put someone in jail. THIS is a cattle gate (Viehgatter).

  46. I just focussed my attention on something that has already been brought up, but that I have ignored until know because of my fundamental attitude that visual details are always unimportant (don’t ask). There is a right-angled “#”, and there is a slanted “#”. The interior of the slanted “#” resembles a rhombus.
    I still have the feeling that there used to be a plain old rhombus on a telephone key, not one with stubble as in “#”. Maybe that was in the States.

  47. Actually there are three cross-hatches: right-angled, horizontally slanted and vertically slanted (musical notation).

  48. Noetica says:

    Gitter (lattice, …
    The Spanish celosía is so much more evocative than either of these stolidly concrete terms. So, um, metaleptic:

    Pero sigue con sus flores,
    mientras que de pie, en la brisa,
    la luz juega el ajedrez
    alto de la celosía.

                      –Lorca, “La monja gitana”

  49. marie-lucie says:

    Very nice image, Noetica!
    Spanish celosía = French jalousie.
    This is not just any lattice but the one placed in front of a window to allow the ladies to take the air and look into the street but prevents anyone from going in and out of the house through the same window. No Romeo climbing into Juliet’s room!

  50. Noetica says:

    Yes, Marie-Lucie: jalousie is occasionally used in English too, but with a restriction of meaning in OED at least to something like “louvre” or “venetian blind”.
    In both Catalan and Italian it’s gelosia; and in all of those Romance languages it has the primary sense “jealousy”.

  51. Noetica says:

    Indeed, here is a 1961 understanding of the term as a louvre window, through the transparency defeats the original purpose entirely. See also the Wikipedia article Jalousie window. The relations between primary and derived meanings becomes ever more metaleptic.

  52. Noetica says:

    = “become”

  53. That’s a rotten Wikipedia jalousie article. Except in hot climates, the horizontally-louvred window pane is most often translucent (and more ugly) — it’s therefore often used for bathroom windows in the US. And Norway, where it’s sjalusi.

  54. No Romeo climbing into Juliet’s room!
    In fictional accounts, Juliet often has a trunk delivered to her rooms from the suq. Romeo is in the trunk, sometimes without her knowledge and sometimes with her connivance.
    The problem in that climate is not just one of jealousy, it is also one of privacy. In the extreme heat of the summer, people do sleep on rooftops and with open windows and on balconies, but women especially can have a problem with unwelcome attention. In Amman my exhausted and pregnant refugee neighbor fell asleep on her living room couch one day, and when she woke up the guy in the apartment across the street (and the street was wide enough for about one car) was just sitting there on his roof staring at her through an open curtain. When I moved into that apartment, she warned me against him, saying he had the type of satellite dish one needs to receive pornography. No decorative screens in Amman though, maybe because of the cold winters; it’s all filmy curtains and plastic tarps.
    celosía
    From a current Louis Sullivan exhibit, here is a panel from a swinging door for separating the kitchen from the dining area from Chicago’s Auditorium Building. The idea is for the staff to be able to see who is coming and going through the door. No special name is given to it other than “perforated panel”.

  55. When I lived in Amman from October to end March, we had the central heating on all the time. So much for the hot Middle East. But then it’s on a high plateau, at the same time you could swim in Aqaba – which one year was cut off from the rest of Jordan by six feet of snow in the pass leading up to the Desert Highway (at Ras el Naqb – my spelling).

  56. I remember reading an essay by Richard Howard (at least I presume it was he), the English translator of Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie. According to him, the publisher insisted on the title Jealousy for the English version, whereas Howard had submitted the manuscript with the title The Blind, trading a French pun for an English one: the jalousie blind itself, and the narrator/husband as “the blind one”, whose obsession with his wife’s supposed infidelity prevents him from seeing the difference between reality and fantasy.

  57. I’ll keep that in mind should I ever read La Jalousie, John. Love is blind, and jealousy is blinds. Neither holds up under bright lights.
    However, I seem to remember a phrase “thousand-eyed jealousy”, as if from Homer. But for that and variants all I find in the net is an “Egyptologist and novelist” Georg Ebers, whom I’m sure I’ve never read (or even heard of), and one Mishle Yehoshua, “an early Hebrew littérateur”.

  58. In German, Jalousie is “venetian blinds”. The article says that Jalousien have been adjustable only since 1812, when one Cochot, a joiner, filed a patent for them in Paris. Ça fait songer: even jealousy is capable of adaptation.

  59. Noetica says:

    Krongold, Stu:
    That’s a rotten Wikipedia jalousie article.
    In German, Jalousie is “venetian blinds”.
    I believe both of you. We are all infallible now. Compare (but not, er, invidiously) the Wikipedia articles for louvre and jalousie windows. For the former, the louvre elements are not transparent. A turbid business indeed. There seems to be a great deal of obscurity in this domain, across languages. The big Collins dictionary transumes English jalousie to German Jalousie, suggesting that the reach of the German word is wider than “venetian blinds”. How would you refer in German to the jalousie qua aide to feminine seclusion, à la marocaine?
    Gitter too turns out to be multivalent.
    Nijma:
    No special name is given to it other than “perforated panel”.
    Practical; possibly inevitable for determinate quotidian meaning. But it wouldn’t do for the Lorcine monja gitana, for whom a chandelier (araña; DRAE: “Especie de candelabro sin pie y con varios brazos, que se cuelga del techo o de un pescante”) is primarily a spider – and more, a good deal of which is risqué (cf., generalising to Common Iberian, the infamous Australian Bonds ad: “vem brincar com a minha aranha“).

  60. How would you refer in German to the jalousie qua aide to feminine seclusion, à la marocaine?
    First off, I forgot to give the link to the German WiPe on Jalousie, showing what in Texas we called “venetian blinds”, or just “blinds”. Germany is replete with curtains, blinds and windows of types unknown on the range. There are vertically adjustable curtains called Plisseevorhänge or Faltrollos, and horizontally adjustable ones called Stores (singular der Store /sto:ɐ/ (the schwa is only half a syllable), plural Stores). The vertical Falt- or Raffrollo is a width of cloth reinforced at intervals with narrow wooden rods, around which strings are wrapped at both ends. The strings go up through the cloth to eyelets at the top. When you pull the strings, the sections of the curtain gather in folds and move upwards in accordion fashion.
    The reason for all the detail about this girly subject of window dressings – about which I am of course constitutionally incapable of remembering much – is that a general principle has suddenly occurred to me that distinguishes German curtain-constructs from American curtains, at least as I knew these as a kid. Making a room dark is merely one, boundary-case function of German curtains. Their primary function is to let light in. That they also keep prying eyes out is taken for granted. The ingenuity put into their construction is concerned with graded control over light. In the American West, curtains were either open and might as well not be there, or they were closed so that naughty things could be done. I concede in advance that my memory of American curtain-functions may be dimmed by the years, and distorted by the age I was when I learned them.
    I don’t know about Marocco, but in Catholic contexts there is the banal designation Nonnengitter or Sprachgitter through which nuns can murmur. HERE is a neat practice recorded by Jean-Paul:

    Die italienischen Nonnen lassen sich von den besuchenden Manspersonen durchs Gitter die Brust berüren Pater Benzi erwies die Erlaubtheit davon in 1 dikken Buche.

  61. I propose that it should be called the Benzi Dodge, to distinguish it from the Gormless Grope.

  62. araña/aranha
    Arachne/Athene spins the web of fate and future, but does the spider also not represent Maya, spinner of magic and earthly appearances — some may even say the veil of illusion that separates the real spiritual world from the illusory physical one. But as Leonard Cohen says, there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in — through the crystal prism of the chandelier:

    Vuelan en la araña gris
    siete pájaros del prisma.

    …and through the squares of the nun’s barred window:

    la luz juega el ajedrez
    alto de la celosía.

    …and perhaps through the nun’s eyes as well, as through imagination she brings the wild, free gypsy colors of the open fields inside her prison where she embroiders them on the altar cloth they sanctify.

  63. and horizontally adjustable ones called Stores
    Aha, hence Russian шторы [shtory].

  64. Duden sez: [frz. store = Rollvorhang < ital. stuora, stuoia < lat. storea= Matte]

  65. marie-lucie says:

    French un store:
    Used by itself, this word refers to the kind of rollup canopy (?) in front of many shops and some houses, especially in Southern France where it is a protection against the sun. Venetian blinds are called stores vénitiens. A jalousie can be similar but it is a fixed structure, unlike the store which can go up and down, with adjustable slats.

  66. German Stores are vertical, not horizontal. I can’t find a picture of the particular things I see here all the time against the ground floor windows of large commercial buildings such as banks and insurance c*mpanies. Or in the windows of upper stories, such as at my last project. Stores are the standard way of regulating lightfall into office areas.
    These things are like louvered fabric slats, but they run vertically, and are fastened at top and bottom to a pair of alignment cords at the outer corners of the slats. There is a kind of beaded chain at one end of this set-up. When you pull it one way, the slats open up to admit more light. When you pull it the other way, the slats swivel inwards against each other. But remember, these “slats” are made of a semi-transparent synthetic material, so there is no real “shutting”.

  67. The word “outer” in “fastened at the outer corners” is superfluous. “Fastened at the corners” is what I meant.

  68. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly, what you are describing is “vertical blinds”.

  69. Thanks, marie-lucie. Are such vertical blinds widely in use in the USA or Canada ? I can’t remember them from Texas in the ’60s.

  70. Thanks to marie-lucie, I easily found a picture of vertical blinds, because it (singular in German !) is just called a Verticalstore.

  71. Oops, Vertikalstore.

  72. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly, around where I live vertical blinds are used mostly for “French doors” or very wide windows since there is a limit to how long the horizontal slats of Venetian blinds can be without being very awkward or even impossible to handle. Rather than having several sets of horizontal blinds side by side across a very wide window, if is often preferable to have one full set of vertical blinds. But no system is perfect, not the slats themselves but the way they are connected to each other, which does not always work properly.

  73. Are such vertical blinds widely in use in the USA or Canada ?Yes, they’re mostly used for sliding doors that lead to the outside, especially on a western exposure or where the afternoon sun would be too strong for fabric draperies (they can fade or even disintegrate in strong sunlight). For some reason, I associate the things with housing developments built in the 70′s and 80′s, and like m-l says, the mechanisms never seem to work right.

  74. I distinctly remember arithmetic exercises in public school in Canada where the # sign, inserted after a numeral, meant pounds avoirdupois. Before a numeral, the sign meant number. If memory serves, its name varied depending on the function: pound sign or number sign. That was in the 50s; I have no idea what is taught now.

  75. bruessel says:

    In French speaking Belgium, the # sign on the telephone keyboard is called “le carré”.

  76. In French speaking Belgium, the # sign on the telephone keyboard is called “le carré”.

    Unrelated to the pound sign, John le Carré claims he can’t remember why he chose that particular pseudonym; I wonder was it a cross-linguistic pun, calling himself a square in the early sixties, after spending his youth informing on his friends and acquaintances, as he admits elsewhere.

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