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Quite a vexing hex

The British call it "hex"; the Americans "pound"; and the Japanese "sharp" - but why can't we agree that it should really just be called "hash"?

The rightful term - at least in the context of phone keypads - is "octothorpe". This neologism first showed up in print in 1973, when Montreal-based Northern Electric Company (now known as Nortel) filed a US patent for their new telephone.

EARLIER this week, I called a bank and had the (dis)pleasure of dealing with an automated telephone operator. You know the type - sing-song voice at much too high a pitch, rattling off more options than there are telephone keys, always implying the solution to your problem is just a "please...

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