Ben Zimmer on CBC radio on “hashtag,” which was the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year.

Points of interest from the broadcast (which you can listen to on the CBC site linked above):

  • The # sign is also known as “octothorpe.” (Oughta be a band: The Octothorpes) 
  • “Discursive functions”: hashtag as meta-commentary is a kind of ironic self-effacement. (I think you’re seeing increasing meta-use to go with ((see below)) declining “original purpose” use.)
  • “The hashtag convention…is a vehicle for organizing our discourse in certain ways.” It’s not to blame for how annoying you may find #YOLO.
  • Hashtagging: No Longer Cool, because, like, everyone’s doing it.
  • Adding “Awkward!” or “Fail!” at the end of sentence has become a verbalized hashtag, an example of “how our online interaction can infect our offline conversation… . We are hashtagging implicitly.”

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