Re: pound sign

From: Jonathan Coxhead (
Date: Fri Nov 13 1998 - 17:30:43 EST

 | The "#" mean "sharp" in music, so it is occasionally referred to as the "sharp
 | sign". It's also in use in North America (and elsewhere) as the "pound" symbol
 | (unit of weight rather than money), whence the English name in telephony
 | systems. However the actual usage as an abbreviation of "pounds" is rather
 | obscure to most speakers of English, since it is usually used to mean "number"
 | (and the equally non-intuitive outside the culture "lbs." means "pounds")...

   It used to be very familiar, in England anyway, before metrication, in
street markets selling fruit and vegetables by the pound. A sign like

      tomatoes 5/- for 1lb

especially when hurriedly writen with chalk on a market stall, say, suffers
from ambiguity: one pound or eleven 'b' (whatever they might be)?

   So the abbreviation 'lb' was often "crossed", something like this,

       | |
       | |
       | +---\
       | | |
       | \---/

and other intermediate forms between 'lb' and '#' were also common.

   (Also, the mark '/', meaning 'shilling' in 5/- (5 shillings and no
pence) is historically an elongated 's'. Maybe I should submit a proposal
that '/' be deleted from Unicode, as it is just a glyph variant of 's'? :-)


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