Phrases on Fridays: Hashtag

Credit: misspixels, flickr.com
Credit: misspixels, flickr.com

In January, the American Dialect Society named “hashtag” the word of the year. And everyone collectively yawned, because we’d all been using this word since 2010. But no one remembers how it got started.

Unlike most Phrases on Fridays, the etymology on this one is easy, accurate and attributable to just one person—open-web advocate Chris Messina, an early user of Twitter.

Which shall henceforth be ever known as "the hashtag proposition."
Which shall henceforth be ever known as “the hashtag proposition.”

The hashtag was slow to catch on, and once implemented in its current form, was used almost exclusively just by Messina himself, until it was picked up by a Republican campaign against a Democrat-sponsored energy bill, as constituents were urged to voice their opposition by tweeting “#dontgo.”

Fun fact: What is now known as the “hash tag,” or pound sign, is actually called an “octothorpe.”